Skip to main content

Full text of "Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters From Prison"

See other formats


Prison er 


•Jp# WF* X'ttMfr'- - if- -'#► » ■ - ^ ' 




Letters and papers fr^tn prison 

On April 5, 1943, Dietrich Bon- 
hoeffer, a German pastor and 
teacher, was arrested by the Gestapo 
and thrown into prison; on April 9, 
1945, he was executed. This book is 
a collection of the letters, essays and 
poems he wrote while in confine- 
ment. Addressed to his parents and 
to a friend, they form an extraor- 
dinary picture of a sensitive man 
whose faith and dedication to serv- 
ice never wavered, whose spiritual 
depth enabled him to overcome the 
most trying of circumstances. 

He was a man of great faith, intel- 
ligence and compassion, who under- 
stood so well the problems of the 
modern world. Resisting ease and 
compromise, he continued his minis- 
tering to the other prisoners, his firm 
resistance to what he knew was 
wrong, and his brilliant study in 
theology and ethics until his death. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer never gave up. 

His writings will continue to pro- 
vide inspiration to everyone. His 
theological discussions will open 
fresh worlds of thought for the 
scholar. His life was indeed a model 
from which all can benefit. 

A brief biographical account of 
his life before imprisonment ap- 
pears on the back flap of this jacket. 


Jacket design by Charlotte Young 



’UBLIC LIBRARY 


; D DDDl DBfll5D7 3 


71-02332 


230 B71pr 
Bonhoeffer 
Prisoner for God 

230 B?l|r I 71-02332 
Bonhoeffer 
, Prisoner for God 


t&m 

K., ; ' 



Prisoner for God 

LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON 


ATE ODE 


~ pen idfil 

yui.ii. 19 Mk? .... 

. AUfi iSJ964 

s i \ > < v ^ ‘ 

__ SEP. 2 6; 1964 S’ti 



^ .... , j? t u ' „ . . 


■-V- 


MAR 1 i 1906 u:„ ^ .. k w 

_ AU6 2 3 j965. I/, V'.,. : ' J. 

A!ffi27'*?«i 73 : , 

NOV' 19656 1 . 

I OCT 28 1966 - ;■ 


,4 





BY DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 

The Cost of Discipleship 

Prisoner for God: Letters and Papers from Prison 



Prisoner for God 

LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON 


by 

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 

edited by EBERHARD BETHGE 
translated by REGINALD H. FULLER 


New York 


The Macmillan Company 


1959 



COPYRIGHT, 19 53 , BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 


All rights reserved — no part of this book may 
be reproduced in any form without permis- 
sion in writing from the publisher, except 
by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief pas- 
sages in connection with a review written 
for inclusion in magazine or newspaper. 

Fourth Printing 1959 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 


The original edition of this book was published in Ger- 
many under the title Widerstand und Ergebung — Brief e 
und A.ufzeichnungen aus der Haft , by Chr. Kaiser 
Verlag, Miinchen, Germany. 

Published in England under the title Letters and 
Papers from Prison . 



Contents 


Editor’s Foreword 7 

I. After Ten Years 13 

No ground beneath our feet — Who stands his ground? 

— Civil Courage? — Of success — Of folly — Contempt 
for humanity — Immanent righteousness — Afeiv articles 
of faith on the sovereignty of God in history — Confi- 
dence — The sense of quality — Sympathy — Of suffering 
— Present and future — Optimism — Insecurity and 
death — Are we still serviceable? 


II. Letters to His Parents 2,8 

From Tegel: April 14th , 1943-May 13th , 1943 

III. A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell 34 

May , 1943 

IV. Letters to His Parents 40 

From Tegel: June 4th, 1943-April 26th , 1944 

V. Letters to a Friend, Poems and Miscel- 

laneous Papers 64 


Letters from Tegel , November 18th, 1943-August 
23rd , 1944 — Prayers for Fellow Prisoners , Christmas , 

1943 — Thoughts on the Baptism of D.W.R . — 
Sorrow and Joy (A Poem) — Who am I? (A Poem) 

— Christians and Unbelievers (A Poem) — Stations on 
the road to freedom — Miscellaneous thoughts — Outline 
for a book 

VI. Signs of Life from the Prinz Albert 

Strasse 186 

Letter to his mother, December 28th, 1944 — New 
Year , 1945 (A Poem) — Letter to his parents, January 
17th, 1945 

Index of Biblical References 189 


S1023 32 




Editor’s Foreword 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s father was a great doctor, a 
psychiatrist teaching atBerlin University; his forebears included 
mayors and parsons. In Schwabisch-Hall in Wiirttemberg 
there are old tombstones in the church bearing the name of 
Bonhoeffer. His mother was a grand-daughter of Karl von 
Hase. He was a well-known Professor of Church History in 
Jena and he too had a taste of imprisonment in a fortress, a 
result of his zeal for the freedom of student corporations. 

It was with such a background that Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
grew up as a member of a large family (he was born on 4th 
February 1906 in Breslau). In Berlin-Grunewald he played 
with the children of Adolf von Harnack, the universal theolo- 
gian, and of Hans Delbriick, the well-known historian. In the 
summer of 1924 he commenced his studies at Berlin Univer- 
sity, was made a licentiate in 1927 with a thesis on Communio 
Sanctorum . Though Harnack, Seeberg and Lietzmann, the most 
influential teachers in Berlin, thought very highly of the 
accomplished young theologian, he came more and more 
under the influence of Karl Barth, whom he had not yet heard 
lecturing. This influence is clearly seen in his later University 
thesis, Akt und Sein , in which he clearly acknowledges the 
importance of dialectical theology for the history of philosophy 
and theology. 

After a brief period as pastor in Barcelona (1928-9), and a 
year of study at Union Theological Seminary, New York 
(1930), he commenced teaching in Berlin, where he continued, 
with some intervals, until finally forbidden to teach by the 
National-Socialist authorities in 1936. The most significant 
break in these years occurred when he took charge of the 
German congregations of St. Paul and Sydenham in London 
from 193 3-5. The reason for this step was to make an unequi- 
vocal protest against the incipient taint of the ‘German Chris- 
tians’ in the Church in Germany. From this time he became 

7 ] 



EDITOR S FOREWORD 


one of the most important interpreters of German events for 
the ecumenical Church in the West. 

While he was preparing, in contact with C. F. Andrews, for 
a visit to Gandhi, he received a call from the Confessing 
Church in Germany to return home in order to lead an 
emergency Seminary in Pomerania for young ministers. It 
was in this task that BonhoefFer’s theological and personal 
influence was at its greatest. Here he wrote the tracts against 
compromise in the Church struggle. Here The Cost of Disciple- 
ship was written (1937), as well as Gemeinsames Leben (1938) — 
the two works which during his lifetime made his name and 
his thoughts most widely known. 

While the discussion about his stirring attack on ‘cheap 
grace’ in The Cost of Discipleship was still proceeding, develop- 
ments of a quite different kind were beginning to change the 
whole direction of his life and his thought. Through his 
brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi he was able to have a 
glimpse behind the scenes of the crisis which centred on 
General von Fritsch, and of the plans for overthrowing the 
Nazi government which were associated with General Beck. 
Hitherto Bonhoeffer, under the influence of his American and 
English experiences, had been very near to absolute pacifism — 
an unheard-of position in the Germany of that time. Now he 
began to see pacifism as an illegitimate escape, especially if he 
was tempted to withdraw from his increasing contacts with 
the responsible political and military leaders of the resistance. 
He no longer saw any way of escape into some region of 
piety. In 1939, when in the course of a lecture tour in America, 
he was pressed on every hand by his American friends to stay 
in America and there to take up some task suitable to his 
ecumenical spirit and his fine sensitivity to church life in other 
lands, he resolved to return to Germany, into what was 
clearly a deteriorating situation, and he took one of the last 
ships sailing back to Germany before the war. In his Diary he 
writes, 1 do not understand why I am here. . . . The short 
prayer in which we thought of our German brothers, almost 
overwhelmed me. ... If matters become more uncertain I 
shall certainly return to Germany. ... In the event of war I 

[8 



EDITOR S FOREWORD 


shall not stay in America . . .’ and finally, ‘Since coming on 
board ship my inner disruption about the future has dis- 
appeared.’ 

Now began a life spent between the tasks of the Confessing 
Church, visitation, and his work at the great task of his Ethics , 
which finally appeared posthumously and unfinished in 1949; 
together with the tasks of the Resistance movement, with all 
its joumeyings. Among these, and the most difficult and moving 
of all, was a visit to Stockholm in 1942, in order to have con- 
versations with the Bishop of Chichester. On the one hand 
he had his church work with all the obstacles set in his way by 
the Gestapo — forbidden to lecture, to write, or to make 
speeches of any kind, and forbidden to remain in Berlin; and 
on the other hand he was provided quietly with all the passes 
and papers which a privileged courier needed. Extraordinary 
confidence was thus placed in him; but it did not last. One 
bright Monday in April 1943 we heard that Hans von 
Dohnanyi had been arrested in his office, and we waited for 
the motor-car to draw up before Bonhoeffer’s door. We made 
the room as ready for the expected visit as we could: docu- 
ments were placed in safety, and others were laid on the table 
— which might provide misleading and unimportant informa- 
tion. Matters took their expected course, and Bonhoeffer was 
arrested. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent the first eighteen months of his 
confinement in the military section of Tegel Prison in Berlin. 
This was from April 5th 1943 until October 8th 1944. After 
a certain amount of quibbling he was given permission to 
write to his parents. The first part of this book consists of 
selections from the letters he wrote to them. They had to pass 
through the prison censorship, and in particular they were 
read by Dr. Roeder, who was in charge of judicial examina- 
tions. This circumstance has naturally affected their contents. 
More obvious however is Bonhoeffer’s concern to allay the 
anxieties of his family. 

In six months, however, Bonhoeffer had made such good 
friends among the warders and medical orderlies that he was 

9 ] 



editor’s foreword 

able to embark upon an extensive correspondence, partly by 
letter, partly on scraps of paper. This correspondence was 
addressed to a number of friends, including the present editor. 
It was only necessary to observe certain rules for the sake of 
security. Thus, communications about certain persons in 
dangerous positions, about the progress of the resistance move- 
ment and about the investigations into his own case had to be 
made in code. But the correspondence proceeded without 
interruption until the stringent measures consequent upon 
July 20th, 1 and the discovery of the Zossen papers (documents, 
diaries and other incriminating evidence relating to the 
members of the resistance movement associated with Canaris, 
Oster, Hans von Dohn^nyi and others) in September 1944. As 
a consequence BonhoefFer was removed by the Gestapo to 
close confinement in Prinz Albert Strasse. Unfortunately this 
move, together with the arrest of the editor in October 1944, 
necessitated the destruction, for security reasons, of the letters 
written during the last months at Tegel. All the earlier letters had 
been deposited in a safe resting-place. These letters form the 
second part of this volume. In these BonhoefFer speaks freely 
of his experiences, thoughts and emotions, unhampered by the 
inquisitive eye of strangers. 

With the letters he sent me he enclosed some of his written 
work, consisting of prayers, poems and reflections. 

These letters enable us to reconstruct the picture of life in a 
prison cell as it was lived by a man of extraordinary sensitivity. 
Here we can see the intimate details of an individual life fused 
into a striking unity with the disastrous events which were 
going on in the world outside, a unity produced by a reflective 
mind and a sensitive heart. The whole picture is given a devastat- 
ing summary in the brief letter of July 21st 1944 and in the 
‘Stations on the Road to Freedom’, composed after the news of 
the failure of July 20th at a time when BonhoefFer became con- 
vinced that his end was near. The failure of the plot was a 
dreadful blow for BonhoefFer, but he met it with renewed 
dedication to the service of his people and with steadfast 
determination to bear all the consequences and the additional 
1 The date of the unsuccessful attempt on Hitler’s life. ( Translator .) 



editor’s foreword 

pain. In time to come it will be better appreciated how this 
second act of dedication justifies the first and sealed it as an 
undying heritage. This heritage may He dormant, but it can 
never be lost. 

In the Prinz Albert Strasse opportunities of contact were 
much reduced. The acceptance and despatch of messages or the 
necessities of life depended entirely on the caprice of the com- 
missars. One day Dietrich’s family found that he had dis- 
appeared. The Gestapo absolutely refused to give any informa- 
tion as to his whereabouts. That was in February. It was not 
until the summer of 1945, some time after the collapse of 
Germany, that we learnt what had happened to him. He had 
been removed first to Buchenwald, then to Schonberg, and 
finally to Flossenbiirg. And now the circumstances of his end 
are gradually coming to light. The letters from prison are 
preceded by an essay entitled ‘After Ten Years’. This was com- 
posed at the turn of the year, 1942-3, and sent to a few friends 
as a Christmas present. At that time warnings had already been 
received, chiefly by Hans von Dohnyani, that the Central 
Bureau for the Security of the Reich was collecting evidence 
against Bonhoeffer and was bent on his arrest. This fragmentary 
essay was stowed away among the beams and rafters, where it 
survived the attentions of the police and enemy bombs. It is a 
testimony to the spirit in which we lived at the time and, if 
need arose, suffered too. 

Bonhoeffer’s last weeks were spent with prisoners drawn 
from all over Europe. Among them was Payne Best, an 
English officer. In his book The Venlo Incident Best writes: 
‘Bonhoeffer . . . was all humility and sweetness, he always 
seemed to me to diffuse an atmosphere of happiness, of joy in 
every smallest event in life, and of deep gratitude for the mere 
fact that he was alive. ... He was one of the very few men 
that I have ever met to whom his God was real and close to 
him.’ 1 And again, ‘The following day, Sunday 8th April, 
1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer held a little service and spoke to us in 
a manner which reached the hearts of all, finding just the right 
words to express the spirit of our imprisonment and the 

1 p. 180. 



editor’s foreword 

thoughts and resolutions which it had brought. He had hardly 
finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil- 
looking men in civilian clothes came in and said: “Prisoner 
Bonhoeffer, get ready to come with us.” Those words “come 
with us” — for all prisoners they had come to mean one thing 
only — the scaffold. 

'We bade him good-bye — he drew me aside — “This is the 
end,” he said. “For me the beginning of life,” and then he 
gave me a message to give, if I could, to the Bishop of 
Chichester. . . . Next day, at Flossenbiirg, he was hanged/ 
This was in Schonberg, a little village in the Bavarian 
forest. A school classroom was his last halting-place, and men 
of every land of Europe and of once hostile confessions his 
last companions on earth. 

Eberhard Bethge 


Acknowledgments are due to Mr. J. B. Leishman for the 
English version of the poem on p. 165, and to Mr. Geoffrey 
Winthrop Young for the poems on pp. 151, 167 and 187. 


[12 



I 

After Ten Years 


Ten years is a long stretch in a man’s life. Time is the most 
precious gift in our possession, for it is the most irrevocable. 
This is what makes it so disturbing to look back upon time we 
have lost. Time lost is time when we have not lived a full 
human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavour, 
enjoyment and suffering. Time lost is time we have not filled, 
time left empty. The past ten years have not been like that. 
Our losses have been immeasurable, but we have not lost 
time. True, knowledge and experience, which are realized 
only in retrospect, are mere abstractions compared with the 
reality, compared with the life we have actually lived. But 
just as the capacity to forget is a gift of grace, so memory, the 
recalling of the lessons we have leamt, is an essential element 
in responsible living. In the following pages I hope to put on 
record some of the lessons we have learnt and the experiences 
we have shared during the past ten years. These are not just 
individual experiences; they are not arranged in an orderly 
way, there is no attempt to discuss them or to theorize about 
them. All I have done is to jot down as they come some of 
the discoveries made by a circle of like-minded friends, dis- 
coveries about the business of human life. The only connexion 
between them is that of concrete experience. There is nothing 
new or startling about them, for they have been known long 
before. But to us has been granted the privilege of learning 
them anew by first-hand experience. I cannot write a single 
word about these things without a deep sense of gratitude for 
the fellowship of spirit and community of life we have been 
allowed to enjoy and preserve throughout these years. 

No Ground beneath our Feet 

Surely there has never been a generation in the course of 
human history with so little ground under its feet as our own. 



NO GROUND BENEATH OUR FEET 


Every conceivable alternative seems equally intolerable. W< 
try to escape from the present by looking entirely to the pas 
or the future for our inspiration, and yet, without indulging 
in fanciful dreams, we are able to wait for the success of oui 
cause in quietness and confidence. It may be however that the 
responsible, thinking people of earlier generations who stooc 
at a turning-point of history felt just as we do, for the very 
reason that something new was being born which was not 
discernible in the alternatives of the present. 


Who Stands his Ground? 

The great masquerade of evil has wrought havoc with all 
our ethical preconceptions. This appearance of evil in the 
guise of light, beneficence and historical necessity is utterly 
bewildering to anyone nurtured in our traditional ethical 
systems. But for the Christian who frames his life on the 
Bible it simply confirms the radical evilness of evil. 

The failure of rationalism is evident. With the best of inten- 
tions, but with a naive lack of realism, the rationalist imagines 
that a small dose of reason will be enough to put the world 
right. In his short-sightedness he wants to do justice to all sides, 
but in the mel£e of conflicting forces he gets trampled upon 
without having achieved the slightest effect. Disappointed by 
the irrationality of the world, he realizes at last his futility, 
retires from the fray, and weakly surrenders to the winning 
side. 

Worse still is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. The 
fanatic imagines that his moral purity will prove a match for 
the power of evil, but like a bull he goes for the red rag instead 
of the man who carries it, grows weary and succumbs. He 
becomes entangled with non-essentials and falls into the trap 
set by the superior ingenuity of his adversary. 

Then there is the man with a conscience. He fights single- 
handed against overwhelming odds in situations which demand 
a decision. But there are so many conflicts going on, all of 
which demand some vital choice — with no advice or support 
save that of his own conscience — that he is tom to pieces. 

[*4 



WHO STANDS HIS GROUND? 

Evil approaches him in so many specious and deceptive guises 
that Ins conscience becomes nervous and vacillating. In the 
end he contents himself with a salved instead of a clear con- 
science, and starts lying to his conscience as a means of avoiding 
despair. If a man relies exclusively on his conscience he fails to 
see how a bad conscience is sometimes more wholesome and 
strong than a deluded one. 

When men are confronted by a bewildering variety of 
alternatives, the path of duty seems to offer a sure way out. 
They grasp at the imperative as the one certainty. The respon- 
sibility for the imperative rests upon its author, not upon its 
executor. But when men are confined to the limits of duty, 
they never risk a daring deed on their own responsibility, 
which is the only way to score a bull’s eye against evil and 
defeat it. The man of duty will in the end be forced to give the 
devil his due. 

What then of the man of freedom? He is the man who 
aspires to stand his ground in the world, who values the 
necessary deed more highly than a clear conscience or the 
duties of his calling, who is ready to sacrifice a barren principle 
for a fruitful compromise or a barren mediocrity for a fruitful 
radicalism. What then of him? He must beware lest his 
freedom should become his own undoing. For in choosing the 
lesser of two evils he may fail to see that the greater evil he 
seeks to avoid may prove the lesser. Here we have the raw 
material of tragedy. 

Some seek refuge from the rough-and-tumble of public fife 
in the sanctuary of their own private virtue. Such men how- 
ever are compelled to seal their lips and shut their eyes to the 
injustice around them. Only at the cost of self-deception can 
they keep themselves pure from the defilements incurred by 
responsible action. For all that they achieve, that which they 
leave undone will still torment their peace of mind. They will 
either go to pieces in face of this disquiet, or develop into the 
most hypocritical of all Pharisees. 

Who stands his ground? Only the man whose ultimate 
criterion is not in Iris reason, his principles, his conscience, his 
freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these 

15 ] 



CIVIL COURAGE? 


things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in 
faith and exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible man 
seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call 
of God. 


Civil Courage? 

What lies behind the complaint about the dearth of civil 
courage? The last ten years have produced a rich harvest of 
bravery and self-sacrifice, but hardly any civil courage, even 
among ourselves. To attribute this to personal cowardice 
would be an all too facile psychology. Its background must be 
sought elsewhere. In the course of a long history we Germans 
have had to learn the necessity and the power of obedience. 
The subordination of all individual desires and opinions to the 
call of duty has given meaning and nobility to life. We have 
looked upwards, not in servile fear, but in free trust, seeing 
our duty as a call, and the call as a vocation. This readiness to 
follow a command from above rather than our own private 
opinion of what was best was a sign of a legitimate self- 
distrust. Who can deny that in obedience, duty and calling 
we Germans have again and again excelled in bravery and self- 
sacrifice? But the German has preserved his freedom — what 
nation has talked so passionately of freedom as we have, 
from Luther to the idealists? — by seeking deliverance from his 
own will through service to the community. Calling and 
freedom were two sides of the same thing. The trouble was, 
he did not understand his world. He forgot that submissiveness 
and self-sacrifice could be exploited for evil ends. Once that 
happened, once the exercise of the calling itself became ques- 
tionable, all the ideals of the German would begin to totter. 
Inevitably he was convicted of a fundamental failure: he could 
not see that in certain circumstances free and responsible action 
might have to take precedence over duty and calling. As a 
compensation he developed in one direction an irresponsible 
unscrupulousness, and in another an agonising scrupulosity 
which invariably frustrated action. Civil courage however can 
only grow out of the free responsibility of free men. Only 



OF SUCCESS 


now are we Germans beginning to discover the meaning of 
free responsibility. It depends upon a God who demands bold 
action as the free response of faith, and who promises forgive- 
ness and consolation to the man who becomes a sinner in the 
process. 

Of Success 

Though success can never justify an evil deed or the use of 
questionable means, it is not an ethically neutral thing. All the 
same it remains true that historical success creates the only 
basis for the continuance of life, and it is still a moot point 
whether it is ethically more responsible to behave like Don 
Quixote and enter the lists against a new age, or to admit one’s 
defeat, accept the new age and agree to serve it. In the last 
resort success makes history, and the Disposer of history is 
always bringing good out of evil over the heads of the history- 
makers. To ignore the ethical significance of success is to 
betray a superficial acquaintance with history and a defective 
sense of responsibility. So it is all to the good that we have 
been forced for once to grapple seriously with this problem of 
the ethics of success. All the time goodness is successful we can 
afford the luxury of regarding success as having no ethical 
significance. But the problem arises when success is achieved 
by evil means. It is no good then behaving as an arm-chair 
critic and disputing the issue, for that is to refuse to face the 
facts. Nor is opportunism any help, for that is to capitulate 
before success. We must be determined not to be outraged 
critics or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of 
responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as 
victors or vanquished. It is only by refusing to allow any 
event to deprive us of our responsibility for history, because 
we know that is a responsibility laid upon us by God, that 
we shall achieve a relation to the events of history far more 
fruitful than criticism or opportunism. To talk about going 
down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really 
heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate 
question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I 
extricate myself heroically from the affair? but. How is the 

x 7] 



OF FOLLY 


coming generation to live? It is only in this way that fruitful 
solutions can arise, even if for the time being they are humilia- 
ting. In short it is easier by far to act on abstract principle than 
from concrete responsibility. The rising generation will always 
instinctively discern which of the two we are acting upon. 
For it is their future which is at stake. 


Of Folly 

Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than malice. 
You can protest against malice, you can unmask it or prevent 
it by force. Malice always contains the seeds of its own des- 
truction, for it always makes men uncomfortable, if nothing 
worse. There is no defence against folly. Neither protests nor 
force are of any avail against it, and it is never amenable to 
reason. If facts contradict personal prejudices, there is no need 
to believe diem, and if they are undeniable, they can simply 
be pushed aside as exceptions. Thus the fool, as compared with 
the scoundrel, is invariably self-complacent. And he can easily 
become dangerous, for it does not take much to make him 
aggressive. Hence folly requires much more cautious handling 
than malice. We shall never again try to reason with the fool, 
for it is both useless and dangerous. 

To deal adequately with folly it is essential to recognize it 
for what it is. This much is certain, it is a moral rather than 
an intellectual defect. There are men of great intellect who are 
fools, and men of low intellect who are anything but fools, a 
discovery we make to our surprise as a result of particular 
circumstances. The impression we derive is that folly is 
acquired rather than congenital; it is acquired in certain cir- 
cumstances where men make fools of themselves or allow 
others to make fools of them. We observe further that folly 
is less common in the unsociable or the solitary than in indivi- 
duals or groups who are inclined or condemned to sociability. 
From this it would appear that folly is a sociological problem 
rather than one of psychology. It is a special form of the 
operation of historical circumstances upon men, a psycho- 
logical by-product of definite external factors. On closer 

[18 



OF FOLLY 


inspection it would seem that any violent revolution, whether 
political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large 
part of mankind. Indeed, it would seem to be almost a law of 
psychology and sociology. The power of one needs the folly 
of the other. It is not that certain aptitudes of men, intellectual 
aptitudes for instance, become stunted or destroyed. Rather, 
the upsurge of power is so terrific that it deprives men of an 
independent judgement, and they give up trying — more or 
less unconsciously — to assess the new state of affairs for them- 
selves. The fool can often be stubborn, but this must not mis- 
lead us into thinking he is independent. One feels somehow, 
especially in conversation with him, that it is impossible to 
talk to the man himself, to talk to him personally. Instead, 
one is confronted with a series of slogans, watchwords, and the 
like, which have acquired power over him. He is under a curse, 
he is blinded, his very humanity is being prostituted and 
exploited. Once he has surrendered his will and become a 
mere tool, there are no lengths of evil to which the fool will 
not go, yet all the time he is unable to see that it is evil. Here 
lies the danger of a diabolical exploitation of humanity, which 
can do irreparable damage to the human character. 

But it is just at this point that we realize that the fool cannot 
be saved by education. What he needs is redemption. There is 
nothing else for it. Until then it is no earthly good trying to 
convince him by rational argument. In this state of affairs we 
can well understand why it is no use trying to fmd out what 
‘the people’ really think, and why this question is also so 
superfluous for the man who thinks and acts responsibly. As 
the Bible says, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of 
wisdom’. In other words, the only cure for folly is spiritual 
redemption, for that alone can enable a man to live as a 
responsible person in the sight of God. 

But there is a grain of consolation in these reflections on 
human folly. There is no reason for us to think that the 
majority of men are fools under all circumstances. What 
matters in the long run is whether our rulers hope to gain 
more from the folly of men, or from their independence of 
judgement and their shrewdness of mind. 

* 9 ] 



CONTEMPT FOR HUMANITY? 


Contempt for Humanity? 

There is a very real danger of our drifting into an attitude of 
contempt for humanity. We know full well that it would be 
very wrong, and that it would lead to a sterile relationship 
with our fellow men. Perhaps the following considerations will 
save us from this temptation. The trouble about it is that it 
lands us into the worst mistake of our enemies. The man who 
despises others can never hope to do anything with them. The 
faults we despise in others are always, to some extent at least, 
our own too. How often have we expected from others more 
than we are prepared to do ourselves! Why have we until now 
held such lofty views about human nature? Why have we not 
recognized its frailty and liability to temptation? We -must 
form our estimate of men less from their achievements and 
failures, and more from their sufferings. The only profitable 
relationship to others — and especially to our weaker brethren — 
is one of love, that is the will to hold fellowship with them. 
Even God did not despise humanity, but became Man for 
man’s sake. 


Immanent Righteousness 

It is one of the most astounding discoveries, but one of the 
most incontrovertible, that evil — often in a surprisingly short 
time — proves its own folly and defeats its own object. That is 
not to say that every evil deed is at once followed automatically 
by retribution. But it does mean that the deliberate transgres- 
sion of the divine law on the plea of self-preservation has the 
opposite effect of self-destruction. This is something we have 
learnt from our own experience, and it can be interpreted in 
various ways. But one certain conclusion we can draw from 
it seems to be that social life is governed by certain laws more 
powerful than any other factors which may claim to be 
determinative. Hence it is not only unjust, but positively 
unwise to ignore these laws. Perhaps that is why Aristotle and 
St. Thomas Aquinas made prudence one of the cardinal 
virtues. Prudence and folly are not ethical adiaphora , as some 

[ 2 ° 



IMMANENT RIGHTEOUSNESS 


NTeo-protestant and Gesinmngs-t thics have tried to make out. 
The prudent man sees not only the possibilities of every 
:oncrete situation, but also the limits to human behaviour 
which are set by the eternal laws of social life. The prudent 
aian acts virtuously and the virtuous man prudently. 

It is true that all great historical action is constantly dis- 
regarding these laws. But it makes all the difference in the 
world whether it does so on principle, as though it contained 
l justification of its own, or whether it is still realized that to 
Dreak these laws is sin, even if it be unavoidable, and that it 
:an only be justified if the law is at once re-instated and 
respected. It is not necessarily hypocrisy when the declared aim 
:>f political action is the restoration of the law and not just 
blatant self-preservation. The world is simply ordered in such 
i way that a profound respect for the absolute laws and human 
ights is also the best means of self-preservation. While these 
aws may on occasion be broken in case of necessity, to pro- 
:laim that necessity as a principle and to take the law into our 
)wn hands is bound to bring retribution sooner or later. The 
mmanent righteousness of history only rewards and punishes 
:he deeds of men, the eternal righteousness of God tries and 
udges their hearts. 


\ A Few Articles of Faith on the Sovereignty 
of God in History 

I believe that God both can and will bring good out of evil. 
For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of 
werything. I believe God will give us all the power we need 
;o resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, 
.est we should rely upon ourselves and not on him alone. A 
faith as strong as this should allay all our fears for the future. 

[ believe that even our errors and mistakes are turned to good 
iccount. It is no harder for God to cope with them than with 
what we imagine to be our good deeds. I believe God is not 
ust timeless fate, but that he waits upon and answers sincere 
grayer and responsible action. 


n] 



CONFIDENCE 


Confidence 

There is hardly one of us who has not known what it is to 
be betrayed. We used to find the figure of Judas an enigma, 
but now we know him only too well. The air we breathe is so 
infested with mistrust that it almost chokes us. But where we 
have managed to pierce through this layer of mistrust we have 
discovered a confidence scarce dreamed of hitherto. Where 
we do trust we have learnt to entrust our very lives to the 
hands of others. In face of all the many constructions to which 
our actions and our fives have been inevitably exposed we 
have learnt to trust without reserve. We know that hardly any- 
thing can be more reprehensible than the sowing and encour- 
agement of mistrust, and that our duty is rather to do every- 
thing in our power to strengthen and foster confidence among 
men. Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest and hap- 
piest blessings of social fife, though it can only emerge on the 
dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learnt 
never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the 
trustworthy without reserve. 


The Sense of Quality 

Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of a whole- 
some reserve between man and man, all human values will be 
submerged in anarchy. The impudent contempt for such 
reserve is as much the mark of the rabble as interior uncertainty, 
as haggling and cringing for the favour of the insolent, as 
lowering oneself to the level of the rabble is the way to 
becoming no better than the rabble oneself. Where self- 
respect is abandoned, where the feeling for human quality and 
the power of reserve decay, chaos is at the door. Where 
impudence is tolerated for the sake of material comfort, self- 
respect is abandoned, the flood-gates are opened, and chaos 
bursts the dams we were pledged to defend. That is a crime 
against humanity. In other ages it may have been the duty of 
Christians to champion the equality of all men. Our duty 

[Z2 



THE SENSE OF QUALITY 


to-day, however, is passionately to defend the sense of reserve 
between man and man. We shall be accused of acting for our 
own interests, of being anti-social. Such cheap jibes must be 
placidly accepted. They are the invariable protests of the 
rabble against decency and order. To be pliant and uncertain 
is to fail to realize what is at stake, and no doubt it goes a good 
way to justify those jibes. We are witnessing the levelling 
down of all ranks of society, but at the same time we are 
watching the birth of a new sense of nobility, which is binding 
together a circle of men from all the previous classes of society. 
Nobility springs from and thrives on self-sacrifice and courage 
and an unfailing sense of duty to oneself and society. It expects 
due deference to itself, but shows an equally natural deference 
to others, whether they be of higher or of lower degree. From 
start to finish it demands a recovery of a lost sense of quality 
and of a social order based upon quality. Quality is the bitterest 
enemy of conceit in all its forms. Socially it implies the cessa- 
tion of all place-hunting, of the cult of the ‘star 5 . It requires an 
open eye both upwards and downwards, especially in die 
choice of one’s closest friends. Culturally it means a return 
from the newspaper and the radio to the book, from feverish 
activity to unhurried leisure, from dissipation to recollection, 
from sensationalism to reflection, from virtuosity to art, from 
snobbery to modesty, from extravagance to moderation. 
Quantities are competitive, qualities complementary. 


Sympathy 

We must never forget that most men only learn wisdom by 
personal experience. This explains, first, why so few people are 
capable of taking precautions in advance — they always think 
they will be able somehow or other to circumvent the danger. 
Secondly, it explains their insensibility to the sufferings of 
others. Sympathy grows in proportion to the fear of approach- 
ing disaster. There is a good deal of excuse on ethical grounds 
for this attitude. Nobody wants to meet fate head-on: inward 
calling and strength for action are only acquired in face of 
actual danger. Nobody is responsible for all the suffering and 

23 ] 



SYMPATHY 


injustice in the world, and nobody wants to set himself up as 
the judge of the universe. Psychologically, our lack of imagina- 
tion, sensitivity and mental agility is balanced by a steady 
composure, an unruffled power of concentration and an 
immense capacity for suffering. But from a Christian point of 
view, none of these mitigating circumstances can atone for the 
absence of the most important factor, that is, a real breadth of 
sympathy/ Christ avoided suffering until his hour had come, 
but when it did come he seized it with both hands as a free 
man and mastered it. Christ, as the Scriptures tell us, bore all 
our human sufferings in his own body as if they were his own 
— a tremendous thought — and submitted to them freely. Of 
course, we are not Christs, we do not have to redeem the 
world by any action or suffering of our own. There is no 
need for us to lay upon ourselves such an intolerable burden. 
We are not lords, but instruments in the hand of the Lord of 
history. Our capacity to sympathize with others in their 
sufferings is strictly limited. We are not Christs, but if we 
want to be Christians we must show something of Christ’s 
breadth of sympathy by acting responsibly, by grasping our 
‘hour’, by facing danger like free men, by displaying a real 
sympathy which springs not from fear, but from the liberating 
..and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. To look on 
without lifting a helping hand is most un-Christian. The 
Christian does not have to wait until he suffers himself; the 
sufferings of his brethren for whom Christ died are enough to 
awaken his active sympathy. 


Of Suffering 

It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human 
command than to accept suffering as free, responsible men. It 
is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone. It 
ls infinitely easier to suffer as public heroes than to suffer apart 
and in ignominy. It is infinitely easier to suffer physical death 
than to endure spiritual suffering. Christ suffered as a free mar 
alone, apart and in ignominy, in body and in spirit, and since 
that day many Christians have suffered with him. 


[24 



PRESENT AND FUTURE 


Present and Future 

We always used to think: it was one of the elementary rights 
of man that he should be able to plan his life in advance, both 
private life and professional. That is a thing of the past. The 
pressure of events is forcing us to give up ‘being anxious for 
the morrow’. But it makes all the difference in the world 
whether we accept this willingly and in faith (which is what 
the Sermon on the Mount means) or under compulsion. For 
most people not to plan for the future means to live irrespon- 
sibly and frivolously, to live just for the moment, while some 
few continue to dream of better times to come. But we cannot 
w take either of these courses. We are still left with only the 
narrow way, a way often hardly to be found, of living every 
day as if it were our last, yet in faith and responsibility living 
as though a splendid future still lay before us. ‘Houses and 
fields and vineyards shall yet again be bought in this land’, 
cries Jeremiah just as the Holy City is about to be destroyed, 
a striking contrast to his previous prophecies of woe. It is a 
divine sign and pledge of better things to come, just when all 
seems blackest. Thinking and acting for the sake of the coming 
generation, but taking each day as it comes without fear and 
anxiety — that is the spirit in which we are being forced to live 
in practice. It is not easy to be brave and hold out, but it is 
imperative. 


Optimism 

It is more prudent to be a pessimist. It is an insurance against 
disappointment, and no one can say ‘I told you so’, which is 
how the prudent condemns the optimist. The essence of 
optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a 
source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have 
resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the 
future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. Of 
course there is a foolish, shifty kind of optimism which is 
rightly condemned. But the optimism which is will for the 

25] 



INSECURITY AND DEATH 


future should never be despised, even if it is proved wrong a 
hundred times. It is the health and vitality which a sick man 
should never impugn. Some men regard it as frivolous, and 
some Christians think it is irreligious to hope and prepare one- 
self for better things to come in this life. They believe in chaos, 
disorder and catastrophe. That, they think, is the meaning of 
present events, and in sheer resignation or pious escapism they 
surrender all responsibility for the preservation of life and for 
the generations yet unborn. To-morrow may be the day of 
judgement. If it is, we shall gladly give up working for a 
better future, but not before. 


Insecurity and Death 

During recent years we have come to know death at close 
quarters. We are sometimes startled at the placidity with 
which we hear of the death of one of our contemporaries. We 
cannot hate death as we used to, for we have discovered some 
good in it after all, and have almost come to terms with it. 
Fundamentally we feel that we really belong to death already, 
and that every new day is a miracle. It would hardly be true 
to say that we welcome death — although we all know that 
accidie which should be avoided like the plague — we are too 
curious for that, or to put it more seriously, we still hope to 
see some sense in the broken fragments of our life. Nor do we 
try and romanticize death, for life is too precious for that. 
Still less are we inclined to see in danger the meaning of life — 
we are not desperate enough for that, and we know too much 
about the joys life has to offer. And we know too much about 
life’s anxieties also, and all the havoc wrought by prolonged 
insecurity. We still love life, but I do not think that death can 
take us by surprise now. After all we have been through during 
the war we hardly dare admit our hope that we shall not die a 
sudden and unexpected death for some trivial accident, but 
rather in dedication to some noble cause. It is not the external 
circumstances, but the spirit in which we face it, that makes 
death what it can be, a death freely and voluntarily accepted. 


[26 



ARE WE STILL SERVICEABLE? 


Are we still serviceable? 

We have been the silent witnesses of evil deeds. Many 
storms have gone over our heads. We have learnt the art of 
deception and of equivocal speech. Experience has made us 
suspicious of others, and prevented us from being open and 
frank. Bitter conflicts have made us weary and even cynical. 
Are we still serviceable? It is not the genius that we shall 
need, not the cynic, not the misanthropist, not the adroit tac- 
tician, but honest, straightforward men. Will our spiritual 
reserves prove adequate and our candour with ourselves 
remorseless enough to enable us to find our way back again to 
simplicity and straightforwardness? 



II 

Letters to His Parents 


April 14th 1943 

My dear Parents , 

I do want you to be quite sure that I am all right. I’m 
sorry this is the first time I have been allowed to write to you, 
but it was quite out of the question during the first ten days. 
To my surprise, the discomforts you usually associate with 
prison life, such as its physical hardships, don’t seem to trouble 
me at all. I can even make a good breakfast each morning on 
dry bread, and sometimes I even get a few extra tit-bits. Still 
less am I worried about the hard prison bed, and I manage to 
get plenty of sleep between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Most surprising 
of all is that I have hardly felt the need for cigarettes since I 
came here. But I am quite sure that psychic factors have a 
good deal to do with it. It is such a violent upheaval, that it 
takes a lot to adjust the mind to it. Physical wants have to 
take a back seat for the time being, which is something I find 
a real enrichment of my experience. I am not so unused to 
solitude as some people would be, and it is quite as good as a 
turkish bath for the soul. The only thing that disturbs me is to 
think you might be worrying about me and not sleeping or 
eating properly. I really am sorry to cause you so much 
trouble, but it’s not my fault — it’s just my luck, that’s all. 
What a great comfort Paul Gerhardt’s hymns are! I am learn- 
ing them off by heart. Then I have also got my Bible and 
some books out of the library here, and enough writing paper 
now . . . 

It is now a fortnight since the 75th birthday. What a grand 
day that was ! I can still hear the hymns we sang in the morning 
and evening, with all the voices and instruments. 'Praise to the 
Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation. . . . Shelters thee 
under his wings, yea, and gently sustaineth.’ How true it is, 
and may it ever remain so ! Spring is now on its way with a 
vengeance. You will have plenty to do in the garden. In the 

[28 



EASTER 


prison courtyard here there is a thrush which sings a beautiful 
little song every morning, and now he has started in the even- 
ing too. One is grateful for little things, and that also is a gain. 
Goodbye for now! 


Easter Sunday 
April 25th ig43 

At last the tenth day has come round and I am allowed 
to write to you again. I do so want you to know that I am 
having a happy Easter in spite of everything. One of the 
great advantages of Good Friday and Easter Day is that they 
take us out of ourselves, and make us think of other things, of 
life and its meaning, and its sufferings and events. It gives us 
^uch a lot to hope for. Ever since yesterday it has been strangely 
quiet in the house. I heard many people wishing each other a 
happy Easter, and one can hardly begrudge them it, for it is 
a hard life, being a warder here. 

First of all, let me thank you for all the things you brought 
for me. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am when they tell 
me: ‘Your mother and sister and brother have just been here 
with something for you.’ The mere knowledge that you have 
been near me and have not forgotten me (of course I know 
there’s really no danger of that!) is enough to keep me happy 
for the rest of the day. Thank you very, very much for every- 
thing! 

Things are still going on all right, and Tm* keeping well. 
Every day they let me out of doors for half an hour’s exercise, 
and I am now allowed to smoke again. In fact, I often forget 
where I am! I can’t complain about my treatment here. I read 
a good deal — newspapers, novels, and above all the Bible. I 
can’t concentrate enough yet for serious work, but during 
Holy Week I at last managed to work through a part of the 
Passion story which has been worrying me for a long time — 
the High Priestly prayer of our Lord. And I have also studied 
some of the ethical sections of the Pauline Epistles, a usefu] 
piece of work. So there is still a lot to be thankful for. 

It is surprising how quickly the day goes here. I can’t believe 

29] 



LIFE IN THE CELL 


I have been here three weeks already. It is nice to go to bed 
at eight — supper is at four — and I enjoy my dreams. I never 
knew before what a source of pleasure that could be. I dream 
every day, and generally about something pleasant. I spend 
the time before I get to sleep saying over to myself the hymns 
I have leamt during the day, and when I wake up (about 
6 a.m.) I like to read a few psalms and hymns, think about you 
all and remember that you are thinking about me. — The day 
is now over, and I hope you are feeling as contented as I am. 
I have read a lot of good things, and my thoughts and hopes 
have been pleasant too. 


May 6th 1943 

I have now had four weeks in prison, and whereas I had 
no difficulty from the outset in accepting my lot consciously, 
I am now getting used to it in a natural, unconscious sort of 
way. That is a relief, but it raises problems of its own, for I 
have no desire to get used to this sort of life, and it would 
not be right to, either. You would find it just the same. — You 
asked me what life is like here. Well, just picture to yourself 
a cell. It does not need much imagination, in fact the less 
imagination you have the nearer the mark you will be. At 
Easter the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung brought out a repro- 
duction from Diirer’s Apocalypse, which I cut out and pinned 
up on the wall. Some of the primroses M. brought along are 
still here too. We are up fourteen hours, and I spend three of 
them walking up and down the cell — several miles a day, in 
addition to the half hour in the courtyard. The rest of the time 
I spend reading, learning things by heart and working. I 
particularly enjoyed reading Gotthelf again. What I like 
about him is Ins clear, wholesome, placid style. I am getting 
on all right and keeping well. 

The wedding at S.’s will soon be here now. I shall not have 
a chance of writing again before the day. I have just read this 
in Jean Paul: ‘The only joys which can stand the fires of 
adversity are the joys of home.’ ... I wish you a happy day 
from the bottom of my heart, and shall be with you in spirit. 

[30 



A WEDDING 


May your thoughts about me be confined to happy memories 
of the past and hopes for the future. It is when life goes hard 
that we particularly want to see the real joys of life unimpaired 
— and a wedding is certainly one of them. 

I cant help thinking of that lovely song of Hugo Wolf which 
we sang a number of times recently: 

Over night come joy and sorrow . 

Both are gone before to-morrow , 

Back to God to let him know 
How youve borne them here below . 

It all turns upon that ‘how’, far more than anything that 
happens to you from the outside. It allays all the anxieties about 
the future which so often torment us. Thank you for remember- 
ing me every day, and for all you are doing and putting up 
with for my sake. Best wishes to the family and friends. Tell 
R. she must not spoil her wedding by any regrets about me. 
She may rest assured that I am with her in spirit in all her 
happiness. 


May 15th 1943 

By the time this letter reaches you, all the preparations 
will be finished and the wedding itself will be over, including 
my own disappointment that I wasn’t there myself. I am 
looking back with gratitude on all the blessing of the past 
and am rejoicing with them all. I wonder what the text of the 
sermon will be. The best I can think of is Romans 15.7, a text 
I have often used myself. . . . What marvellous summer 
weather they are having. I guess this morning’s hymn was 
Paul Gerhardt’s Die giiUne Sonne . 

Your letter has come at last. Many thanks. My parental 
home has become so much a part of myself that every time I 
hear from you I am overjoyed. If only we could at least see 
one another and have even a short chat, how lovely it would 
be, and what a relief ! 

People outside naturally find it difficult to imagine what 

3i] 



THE FEELING OF TIME 

prison life must be like. In itself, that is, each single moment, 
life here is not very different from anywhere else, so far. I 
spend my time reading, meditating, writing, pacing up and 
down my cell — without rubbing myself sore on the walls like 
a polar bear! The important thing is to make the best use of 
one’s possessions and capabilities — there are still plenty left — 
and to accept the limits of the situation, by which. I mean not 
giving way to feelings of resentment and discontent. I have 
never realized so clearly what the Bible and Luther mean by 
spiritual trial. Quite suddenly, for no apparent reason, whether 
physical or psychological, the peace and placidity which have 
been a mainstay hitherto begin to waver, and the heart, in 
Jeremiah’s expressive phrase, becomes that defiant and des- 
pondent thing one cannot fathom. It is like an invasion from 
outside, as though evil powers were trying to deprive one of 
life’s dearest treasures. But it is a wholesome and necessary 
experience which helps one to a better understanding of 
human life. I am just trying my hand at an essay on ‘The feeling 
of time’ (. Zeitgefuhl ), a topic of peculiar interest to one like 
myself who is held in custody for examination. Over the door 
of this cell one of my predecessors here has scribbled the words 
‘In ioo years it will all be over’. That was his way of trying to 
overcome the feeling that time spent here is a complete blank. 
There is much to be said on the subject, and I should like to 
talk it over with Papa. ‘My time is in thy hand’ (Psalm 31.16) 
— that is the Bible’s answer. But there is also a question which 
the Bible asks, and which threatens to dominate the whole 
subject: ‘Lord, how long?’ (Psalm 13). 

You really ought to read Gotthelf’s Berner Geist , and if 
not the whole of it, at least the first part. It is quite unique, and 
will certainly interest you. I remember how old Schoene 
always had a special word of praise for Gotthelf, and I should 
like to suggest to the Diederich Press that they bring out a 
Gotthelf anthology. Stifter’s background is mainly Christian. 
His woodland scenes often make me long to be back again in 
the quiet glades of Friedrichsbrunn. But he is not so forceful as 
Gotthelf, although he is wonderfully clear and simple, which 
gives me a great deal of pleasure. If only we could talk to one 

[32 



READING THE BIBLE 


another about these things. For all my sympathy with the con- 
templative life, I am not a born Trappist! A temporary rule 
of silence may be a good thing, and Catholics tell us that the 
best expositions of Scripture come from the purely contemp- 
lative orders. I am reading the Bible straight through from 
cover to cover and have just got to the Book of Job, a firm 
favourite of mine. I am reading the Psalms daily, as I have 
done for years. I know them and love them more than any 
other book in the Bible. Whenever I read Psalms 3, 47, 70 and 
others, I always seem to hear them in the settings by Schiitz. It 
was R. who first introduced me to his music, and I count it one 
of the greatest enrichments of my life. 

I feel myself so much a part of you all that I know we 
live and bear everything in common, acting and thinking 
for one another even when we are separated. 


33 ] 



Ill 

A Wedding Sermon 
from a Prison Cell 

Ephesians 1.12: 4 . . . to the end that we should be 

unto the praise of his glory/ 

It is wholly right and proper for a bride and bridegroom to 
welcome their wedding day with a sense of triumph. All the 
difficulties, obstacles, impediments, doubts and suspicions have 
at last been — I shall not say, thrown to the winds, for that 
would be to make too light of them — but honestly faced and 
overcome. Both parties have now won the most important 
battle of their lives. You have just said to one another ‘I wilT, 
and with those words you have declared your voluntary 
assent and turned a critical point in your lives. You know full 
well all the doubts and suspicions with which a lifelong part- 
nership between two persons is faced. But you have defied 
these doubts and suspicions with a cheerful confidence, and by 
your free assent you have conquered a new land to live in. 
Every wedding is an occasion of joy, joy that human beings 
can do such great things, that they have been granted the 
freedom and the power to take the rudder of their fives into 
their own hands. The children of earth are rightly proud when 
they are allowed a hand in shaping their own destinies. And 
it is right that a bride and bridegroom should have this pride 
on their wedding day. It would be wrong to speak too lightly 
and irresponsibly about God’s will and providence. To begin 
with there can be no question that it is your own very human 
wills which are at work here, which are celebrating their 
triumph. The course you are embarking upon is one you 
have chosen for yourselves. It is not in the first place some- 
thing religious, but something quite secular. And so you alone 
must bear the responsibility for what you are doing, it cannot 
be taken from you. It is you, the bride and bridegroom, who 

[34 



A WEDDING SERMON 


as a married couple must bear the whole responsibility for the 
success of your married life, with all the happiness it will 
bring. Unless you can boldly say to-day: ‘This is our resolve, 
our love, our way’, you are taking refuge in a false piety. 
‘Iron and steel may pass away, but our love shall abide for 
ever/ You hope to find in another that earthly bliss in which, 
to quote a mediaeval song, the one is the comfort of the other 
both in body and in soul. Such a hope has its proper place in 
God’s eyes as well as man’s. 

You have both been abundantly blessed in your lives up 
till now, and you have every reason to be thankful. The 
beauties and joys of life have almost overwhelmed you, success 
has always come your way, and you have been surrounded by 
the love of your friends. Your path has always been smoothed 
out before you. Amid all the changes and chances of life you 
have always been able to count on the support of both your 
families and your friends. Every one has been generous to you, 
and now you have found each other, and have at last been led 
to the goal of your desires. Such a life, as you know full well, 
can never be created or entered upon in our own power. It is 
given to some and denied to others. That is what we mean by 
divine providence. As you rejoice to-day that you have 
reached your goal, so you will be grateful that God’s will 
and God’s way have brought you hither. As you take full 
responsibility upon your own shoulders for what you are 
doing to-day, so with equal confidence you may place it all 
in the hands of God. 

God has sealed your ‘I will’ with his own. He has crowned 
your assent with his. He has bestowed upon you this triumph 
and rejoicing and pride. He is thus making you the instruments 
of his will and purpose both for yourselves and for others. In 
his unfathomable condescension God veritably gives his Yea 
to yours. But in so doing he creates out of your love something 
that did not exist before — the holy estate of matrimony. 

God is guiding your marriage. Marriage is more than your 
love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power. For it is 
God’s holy ordinance, by means of which he wills to per- 
petuate the human race until the end of time. In your love you 

35 ] 



A WEDDING SERMON 


see your two selves as solitary figures in the world; in marriage 
you see yourselves as links in the chain of the generations, 
which God causes to come and go to his glory and calls into 
his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your 
bliss, through marriage you are placed at a post of responsi- 
bility towards the world and to mankind. Your love is your 
own private possession; marriage is more than a private affair, 
it is an estate, an office. As the crown makes the king, and not 
just his determination to rule, so marriage and not just your 
love for each other makes you husband and wife in the sight 
of God and man. As you first gave the ring to one another and 
received it a second time from the hand of the parson, so love 
comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As 
God is infinitely higher than man, so the sanctity, the privilege 
and the promise of marriage are higher than the sanctity, the 
privilege and promise of love. It is not your love which sus- 
tains the marriage, but from now on the marriage that sustains 
your love. 

God makes your marriage indissoluble. ‘Those whom God 
hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ God is joining 
you together: it is his act, not yours. Do not confound your 
love with God. God makes your marriage indissoluble, he 
protects it from every danger from within and without. 
What a blessed thing it is to know that no power on earth, no 
human frailty can dissolve what God holds together. Knowing 
that, we may say with all confidence, what God has joined 
together man cannot put asunder. No need now to be troubled 
with those anxious fears so inseparable from love. You can 
say to each other now without a shadow of doubt: ‘We can 
never lose each other now. By the will of God we belong to 
each other till death us do part.’ 

God establishes an ordinance in which you can live together 
as man and wife. ‘Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as 
is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not 
bitter against them’ (Colossians 3.18,19). With your love 
you are founding a home. That needs an ordinance, and this 
ordinance is so important that God establishes it himself, for 
without it life would be reduced to chaos. You may order 

[36 



A WEDDING SERMON 


your home as you like, save in one particular: the woman must 
be subject to her husband, and the husband must love his wife. 
In this way God gives to man and woman the glory peculiar 
to each. It is the glory of the woman to serve the man and to 
be a ‘help meet’ for him, as the creation story calls it. And it is 
the glory of the man to love his wife with all his heart. He 
‘will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife’, he 
will ‘love her as his own flesh". A woman who seeks to dom- 
inate her husband dishonours not only him but herself as well, 
just as the man who does not love his wife as he should dis- 
honours himself as well as her, and both dishonour the glory 
of God which is meant to rest upon the estate df matrimony. 
There is something wrong with a world in which the woman’s 
ambition is to be like a man, and in which the man regards 
the woman as the toy of his lust for power and freedom. It is 
a sign of social disintegration when the woman’s service is 
thought to be degrading, and when the man who is faithful to 
his wife is looked upon as a weakling or a fool. 

The place God has assigned for the woman is the husband’s 
home. Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home 
can mean, though some of us have come to realize it as never 
before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, 
a haven of refuge amid the turmoil of our age, nay more, a 
sanctuary. It is not founded on the shifting sands of private 
and public life, but has its peace in God. For it is God who 
gave it its special meaning and dignity, its nature and privilege, 
its destiny and worth. It is an ordinance God has established in 
! the world, the place where peace, quietness, joy, love, purity, 
continence, respect, obedience, tradition, and, to crown them 
all, happiness may dwell, whatever else may pass away in the 
the world. It is the woman’s calling and her joy to build up 
this world within the world for her husband, and to make it 
the scene of her activity. How happy she is when she realizes 
what a noble and rich destiny and task is hers. Not novelty, 
but permanence, not change, but constancy, not noisiness, but 
peace, not words, but deeds, not peremptoriness, but persuasion, 
and all these things inspired and sustained by her love for her 
husband — -such is the woman’s kingdom. In the Book of 

37 ] 



A WEDDING SERMON 

Proverbs we read: ‘The heart of her husband trusteth in her. 
And he shall have no lack of gain. She doeth him good and 
not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and 
worketh w illing ly with her hands. She riseth also while it is yet 
night. And giveth meat to her household. And their task is to 
their maidens. ... She spreadeth out her hand to the poor; 
yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. . . . Strength 
and dignity are her clothing; And she laugheth at the time to 
come. . . . Her children rise up, and call her blessed; her 
husband also, and he praiseth her, saying. Many daughters have 
done virtuously, But thou excellest them all.’ Again and again 
the Bible praises, as the supreme happiness which earth affords, 
the fortune of a man who finds a true, or as the Bible itself 
ralk her, a ‘virtuous’ or ‘wise’ woman. ‘Her price is far above 
rubies.’ ‘A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.’ But 
the Bible can speak just as frankly of the woe which the 
perverse or ‘foolish’ woman can bring upon her husband and 
her home. 

The Bible goes on to call the man the head of the woman, 
adding also ‘even as Christ is the Head of the Church’. Some- 
thing of the divine splendour is here reflected in our earthly 
relationships, and this reflection is something we should 
recognize and honour. The dignity ascribed to the man lies 
not in any quality of his own, but in the office conferred upon 
him by his marriage. The woman should see her husband 
arrayed in this dignity. But for him it is his supreme responsi- 
bility. As the head, it is he who is responsible for his wife, for 
their marriage, and for their home. On him falls the care and 
protection of the family. He represents it to the outside world, 
he is its mainstay and comfort; he is the master of the house, 
who exhorts, helps, comforts, and stands as their priest before 
God. It is good thing, for it is a divine ordinance when the 
woman honours the man for his office’s sake, and when the 
man properly discharges the duties of his office. The man and 
woman who acknowledge and observe the ordinance of God 
are ‘wise’, but those who think they can replace it by another 
of their own devising are ‘foolish’. 

God has laid upon marriage both a blessing and a burden. 

[38 



A WEDDING SERMON 


The blessing is the promise of children. God allows man to 
co-operate with him in the work of creation and preservation. 
But it is always God himself who blesses marriage with 
children. ‘Children are a gift that cometh of the Lord’ (Psalm 
127), and they should be acknowledged as such. It is from God 
that parents receive their children, and it is to him that they 
should lead them. Hence parents exercise an authority over 
their children which is derived from God. Luther says that 
God invests parents with a chain of gold, and Scripture 
annexes to the fifth commandment the promise of long life 
on earth. But since men live on earth, God has given them a 
lasting reminder that this earth stands under the curse of sin 
and is not itself the ultimate reality. Over the destiny of 
woman and of man lies the dark shadow of the wrath of God. 
The woman must bear her children in pain, and in providing 
for his family the man must reap many thorns and thistles and 
labour in the sweat of his brow. This burden should drive 
both man and wife to call on God and should remind them of 
their eternal destiny in his kingdom. Earthly society is but the 
beginning of that eternal society, the earthly home the image 
of the heavenly, the earthly family the symbol of the Father- 
hood of God over men, who are all his children. 

God intends you to found your marriage on Christ. ‘Where- 
fore receive ye one another, even as Christ also received you, 
to the glory of God/ In a word, live together in the forgiveness 
of your sins, for without it no human fellowship, least of all a 
marriage, can survive. Don’t insist on your rights, don’t 
blame each other, don’t judge or condemn each other, don’t 
find fault with each other, but take one another as you are, 
and forgive each other every day from the bottom of your 
hearts. 

From the first day of your marriage until the last your rule 
must be: ‘Receive one another ... to the praise of God.’ 

Such is the word of God for your marriage. Thank him for 
it, thank him for bringing you thus far. Ask him to establish 
your marriage, to confirm and hallow it and preserve it to the 
end. With this your marriage will be ‘to the praise of his 
glory’. Amen. 

39 ] 



IV 

Letters to His Parents 


Ascension Day 
June 4th 1943 

. . . Thank you very much for your letters. They are 
always too short for me , but of course I understand! It is as 
though the prison gates were opened for a moment, and I 
could share a little of your life outside. Joy is something we 
can do with very badly here; it’s such a serious place, no one 
ever laughs. It seems to get even the warders down. 

To-day is Ascension Day, and a day of great joy for all 
who can believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. My 
thoughts go out to all of you, to the Church and its services, 
from which I have been cut off so long. Nor do I forget those 
unknown people in this house who are bearing their fate in 
silence. I find such thoughts as these a good antidote against 
thinking too much of my own hardships. It would be wrong 
of me and most ungrateful to give way to that temptation. 

I have just written a bit more of my essay on ZeitgefuhL I 
enjoy writing it very much. When I write from personal 
experience, I find it flows easily from the pen, and it helps me 
to get it all off my chest. Thank you for sending Kant’s 
Anthropology, Papa. I hadn’t read it before, but I’ve got all 
through it now. Much of it was interesting, but I think his 
psychology is too rationalistic and rococo, and there are many 
phenomena which it simply ignores. Can you send me some- 
thing on the subject of memory, its various forms and func- 
tions? It’s a topic one is naturally very interested in here. I 
enjoyed Kant’s opinion about smoking as a means of solitary 
amusement. 

I am awfully glad to hear you are reading Gotthelf. You will 
certainly like his Wander ungen j ust as much. For serious reading 
I have read here Uhlhom’s Geschichte der christlichen Liebes- 
tdtigkeit with much enjoyment. It reminded me of the Church 
History we learnt in Holl’s seminar. 


[40 



WHITSUN 


I read some Stifter almost every day. The intimate life of 
his characters — it is so old-fashioned of him only to depict 
sympathetic characters — does me a lot of good in this atmos- 
phere here, and guides one’s thoughts to the things that really 
matter in life. In every way life in prison makes one return to the 
simplest things in life. That explains for instance why I have 
found it impossible to get along with Rilke. Though I wonder 
whether one’s understanding is not affected by the restrictions 
under which one has to live. . . . 


Whitsunday 
June 14th 1943 

Well, Whitsun is here, and we are still separated from one 
another. Yet it is in quite a special way a feast of fellowship. 
When I heard the church bells ringing this morning, I felt how 
I should have loved to go to church, but instead I followed 
St. John’s example on the isle of Patmos, and held a nice little 
service of my own. I hardly felt lonely at all, for I was quite 
sure you were with me, and so were all the congregations 
with whom I have kept Whitsun in previous years. Every 
hour or so since yesterday morning I have been repeating to 
myself the words: ‘Thou art a Spirit of joy’, and ‘Grant us 
strength and power’. These words are a great comfort — from 
Paul Gerhardt’s Whitsun hymn, which I love so much, and 
then the words: ‘If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy 
strength is small’, from Proverbs 24; and ‘God gave us not a 
spirit of fearfulness, but of power and love and discipline’, 
from II Timothy 1. The strange story of the first Whitsunday, 
with its miraculous gift of tongues, has once more provided a 
good deal of food for thought. At the tower of Babel all the 
tongues were confounded, and as a result men could no longer 
understand one another as they all spoke different languages. 
This confusion is now brought to an end by the language of 
God, which is universally intelligible and the only means of 
mutual understanding among men. And the Church is the 
place where that miracle happens. — Truly, these are noble and 
inspiring thoughts. All his life Leibniz toyed with the idea of 
4i] 



LEIBNIZ AND REUTER 

a universal script consisting not of words but of self-evident 
signs in which he hoped every conceivable idea might be 
expressed. In this way he hoped that all the divisions in the 
world of his day might be healed. It is a sort of philosophical 
reflex of the Pentecost story. — Once again, all is quiet here, 
except for the tramp of the prisoners pacing up and down in 
their cells. And how comfortless and un- Whitsun-like some 
of their thoughts must be! If I were prison chaplain here I 
should spend the whole time from mom to night on days like 
this visiting the prisoners in their cells. What a lot would 
happen then! . . . 

You are all waiting, like me, and I must admit I had a sort 
of unconscious feeling that I should be out of here by Whitsun, 
although on the conscious level I am always telling myself not 
to pin my hopes on any definite date. To-morrow I shall have 
been here ten weeks. As mere laymen little did we dream that 
‘temporary confinement’ would be so long as this ! It is a great 
mistake to be so ignorant of legal affairs as I am. It brings home 
to one what a different atmosphere the lawyer must live in 
compared with the theologian. But that is another salutary 
lesson, and there is a proper place for everything. All we can 
do is to trust they are making every effort to get things cleared 
up as quickly as possible. So we must try hard to be patient, 
and not get bitter. Fritz Reuter puts it very well: ‘No one’s 
life flows on such an even course that it does not sometimes 
come up against a dam and whirl round and round, or some- 
body throws a stone into the clear water. Something happens 
to everyone — and he must take care that the water stays clear 
and that heaven and earth are reflected in it’ — when you’ve 
said that you have really said everything. 

My essay on Zeitgefuhl is practically finished. I am going to 
let it simmer for a while and see what it looks like later. 

It is Whitmonday, and I was just sitting down to a dinner 
of turnips and potatoes when the parcel you sent me by 
Ruth as a present for Whitsun arrived. Such things give me 
greater joy than I can say. Although I am utterly convinced 
that nothing can break the bonds between us, I seem to need 
some outward token or sign to reassure me. In this way 

[42 



THE DEAD TOMTITS 


material things become vehicles of spiritual realities. I suppose 
it’s rather like the need felt in all religions for sacraments. 


June 24th ig43 

What a blessing it is in such times as this to belong to a 
large and closely-knit family where each trusts the other and 
stands by him. I often used to think when pastors were sent to 
prison that it was easier for those who were unmarried. But I 
had no idea then what the love of wife and family could mean 
in the coldness of prison life, and how in just such times of 
separation the feeling of belonging together through thick 
and thin is actually intensified. . . . 

Some letters have just arrived, for which I thank you very 
much. From what you say about the strawberries and rasp- 
berries, of school holidays and plans for travel, I begin to feel 
summer has really come. One hardly notices here the passing 
of the seasons. I am glad the weather is so seasonable. Just 
recently I discovered a tomtit’s nest in the courtyard with ten 
young. I enjoyed going to look at it everyday until someone 
went and destroyed the lot. To think that anyone could be so 
cruel! Some of the tomtits were lying dead on the ground, 
poor things. There is also a small ant-hill, and some bees in the 
lime trees. These things add a good deal of enjoyment to my 
walks in the courtyard. I often think of the story of Peter 
Bamm who lived on a beautiful island where he met all sorts 
of people, good and bad. One night, however, he had a night- 
mare and dreamt that the day might come when the whole lot 
would be obliterated by a bomb, but all he could think of was 
what a pity it would be for the butterflies! Prison life brings 
home to a man how nature carries on its quiet, care-free life 
quite unconcerned, and makes one feel almost sentimental 
towards animal and plant life — except for flies; I cant work 
up any sentiment about them! The prisoner finds compensa- 
tion for the lack of warmth and cordiality in his surroundings 
in an exaggerated sentimentality. When this happens to me I 
find it is a good thing to call myself to order with a cold 
shower of sobriety and humour. If I didn’t do this I should 

43 ] 



CHURCH BELLS 


be completely knocked off my balance. I believe it is just here 
that Christianity, rightly understood, can help immensely. 

All this will be no news to you, Papa, with your long 
experience of prisoners. I am not yet sure what exactly prison 
psychosis, as they call it, is, though I have a pretty shrewd idea. 


July 3rd 1943 

About six o’clock on a Sunday evening the bells of the 
prison chapel start ringing, and that is the best moment to 
write home. What an extraordinary power church bells have 
over us human beings, and how deeply they affect us. So many 
associations have gathered around them. All our discontents, 
ingratitude and self-seeking vanish away, and in a moment 
only our pleasant memories remain hovering around us like 
benign spirits. First I recall those quiet summer evenings in 
Friedrichsbrunn, then all the different parishes I have worked 
in, and then all our family occasions, weddings, christenings 
and confirmations — to-morrow my godchild will be con- 
firmed. Innumerable memories come crowding in upon me, 
but only those which inspire peace, gratitude and confidence. 
If only I could be a greater help to others! During the past 
week I have done a good deal of quiet work and have read 
some good books, as well as some letters from you. And now 
to-day there is your magnificent parcel. What a pity you 
have had to have the windows of the air raid shelter walled 
in! 

I have now been three months in prison. I remember 
Schlatter once saying in his Ethics lectures that it was one of 
the duties of a Christian citizen to take it patiently when he was 
arrested for investigation. It didn’t mean a thing to me at the 
time, but just lately I have been thinking about it quite a lot. 
So let us keep on waiting quietly and patiently as long as 
it will be required of us, and as we have been doing up to 
now. 

I often dream that I have been released and am back home 
again with you. . . . The day lilies are simply marvellous. Their 
cups open slowly in the morning and bloom only for a day, 

[44 



GERMAN LITERATURE 


and next morning there are fresh ones to take their place. The 
day after to-morrow they will all be over. 


Sunday 

July 27th 1943 

To think you came here yesterday in all that heat to bring 
me the parcel! I hope it hasn’t exhausted you too much. Many 
thanks for coming and for all the things you brought for me. 
The summer produce is particularly welcome, of course. 
Fancy the tomatoes being ripe already! I am feeling the 
warmth for the first time just now. But it is not too un- 
pleasant in the cell, especially as I keep pretty still most of the 
time. The only trouble is that I long more and more for fresh 
air. If only I could spend an evening in the garden again! It’s 
nice to have the half-hour’s exercise every day, but it is not 
enough. I seem to have a permanent cold, and I don’t suppose 
I shall be able to shake it off until I get out into the open air 
again. The flowers here are a great blessing; they bring some 
colour and life into this dreary cell. 

In my reading I am now concentrating wholly on the nine- 
teenth century. During recent months I have read Gotthelf, 
Stifter, Immermann, Fontaneand Keller with sheer admiration. 
There couldn’t have been much wrong with an age which 
could write such simple and lucid German. They treat the 
most delicate matters without the slightest trace of flippancy, 
and can express their convictions without pathos — no exag- 
gerated simphfying or complicating either in language or 
subject matter; in short, I find them extremely attractive. They 
must have taken great pains over their style, which means they 
must have had plenty of opportunity for quiet. By the way the 
last Reuters were as fascinating as ever; their equipoise extends 
even to the language, and fills me with joy and amazement. 
An author’s style is often by itself enough to attract or repel. 

Each time I hope this will be my last letter from prison. 
Surely every day makes my release more probable. I am 
gradually beginning to feel I have had enough of it. If only 
we could have a few of these lovely summer days together! 

45 ] 



SUMMER HEAT 


August 3rd ig43 

I am glad I can write to you oftener now, and very grate- 
ful too. For I fear you must often be worrying about me, not 
only on account of the heat in my cell just under the roof, but 
also because I asked you to procure for me the services of a 
lawyer. That wonderful parcel of yours has just arrived, with 
tomatoes, apples, bottled fruit, thermos flask, etc., and that 
fantastic cooling salt. — I never knew such a thing existed. 
What a lot of trouble you have taken for me again. Please 
don’t worry. I have often had to put up with worse heat in 
Italy, Africa, Spain, Mexico, and almost the worst of all was 
in New York in July 1939, so I have a pretty shrewd idea how 
to keep myself as comfortable as possible in it. I eat and drink 
very little and sit quietly at my desk, and in this way manage 
to work without hindrance. From time to time I refresh both 
body and soul with your wonderful things. I don’t want to 
put in for a transfer to another floor, as it would not be fair 
on the other man who would have to be moved up here, and 
I don’t suppose he would have any tomatoes, etc. Besides, it 
does not make much difference whether the temperature in 
the cell is 93 or only 86. I am sorry Hans 1 finds the heat so 
trying. It is wonderful what you can put up with when you 
know you’ve got to, but quite different when you think there 
is a chance of relief round the comer. 

I hope you have not been worrying since I asked you to 
procure me a lawyer. You must wait for things to take their 
course, like me. Don’t imagine I am restless or depressed. Of 
course the delay was a disappointment for me, as I suppose it 
was for you too. But somehow it’s a consolation to know 
that my case will soon be cleared up after we have been on 
tenterhooks for so long. Every day I am hoping for more details 
about the procedure. 

Once again I have been reading a lot of good things. Jiirg 
Jenatsch refreshed a youthful memory and gave me a good deal 
of pleasure and interest. As regards history, I found the work 

1 Hans von Dohnanyi, in die Lehrterstrasse prison at the same time. 

[46 



THEODOR FONTANE 


about the Venetians very instructive and arresting. Would you 
please send me some Fontane: Frau Jenny Treibel , Irr ungen, 
Wirrungen and Stechlin ? I am bound to reap the benefit of this 
concentrated reading of the past few months, it will help me 
a great deal in the work I am planning. One often learns more 
about ethics from such books as these than from the text-books. 
I enjoyed Reuter’s Kein Husung as much as you did, Mama. 
Surely I must have finished the Reuters by now — or is there 
still something very special in store for me? 

The other day I read this pretty verse in Der Griine Heinrich : 

The waves of the sea may roar 
And do their worst against me, 

I hear your song as of yore. 

Not a single note can escape me . 


August 7th 1943 

How are you getting on with the A.R.P.? After all that 
has been in the papers these last few days one cannot help 
thinking out the whole matter afresh. Do you remember 
we were rather doubtful about the supports in the cellar, 
and talked about having the central beam reinforced? I 
wonder if you have thought any more about it, and whether 
it would be possible to get someone to help you with the work. 
I daresay it would be difficult now. How I should love to come 
and help you myself. Let me know all about it anyhow. I am 
interested in every detail. 

I don’t think I told you that every day, when I get tired of 
reading and writing, I amuse myself with a chess problem. If 
you come across some good little work on the subject I should 
be grateful, but don’t put yourself out about it. I shall 
manage. . . . 


August 17th 1943 

. . . Above all, please don’t worry over me unduly. I’m 
keeping my end up, and am quite content at heart. What a 

47 ] 



CASUALTIES 


good thing it is to know from previous experience that there 
is no need for air raids to alarm us unduly ! I am very glad the 
law courts are to stay in Berlin. In the meantime we’ve all got 
better things to do than to be thinking all the time about 
possible air raids. Prison life seems to give one a certain 
detachment from the alarums and excitements of the day. . . . 

For the past fortnight everything has been so uncertain 
that I have not felt like any serious work. But now I am 
going to try and get down to some more writing. Some weeks 
ago I tried to sketch out a play, but meanwhile I have dis- 
covered that the theme does not really lend itself to dramatic 
treatment, so I shall try and rewrite it as a story. It is about the 
life of a family. As you would expect, there is a good deal of 
autobiography mixed up in it. 

The death of the three young pastors is a great personal loss 
to me. I should be grateful if their relatives could be told that 
I cannot write to them at present, otherwise they might not 
understand. These three were my most promising pupils. It 
is a sad blow, both for me personally, and for the Church. 
More than thirty of my pupils must have fallen by now, and 
nearly all of them were among my best. . . . 


August 24th 1943 

What a lively time you had last night. I was much 
relieved to hear from the head warder that you were all right. 
My cell is high up, and the window is kept wide open during 
the alarm, so I get a grandstand view of the awful fireworks 
on the south side of the city. It’s not that I feel personally 
discontented with my lot, but I can’t help feeling during these 
raids how utterly absurd it is to be kept waiting here doing 
nothing. The Brudergemeinde text for this morning was most 
appropriate: T will give peace in the land, and ye shall He 
down, and none shall make you afraid’ (Leviticus 26.6). 

On Sunday night I stupidly got a touch of gastric trouble. 
Yesterday I had a temperature, but to-day it’s back to normal. 
I have only just got up to write this letter, and I intend to go 
straight back to bed again as a precaution. I don’t want to be 

[48 



SELF-ADAPTATION 


ill here if I can help it. As there are no special arrangements 
for sick diet, I was very pleased with your rusks and a packet 
of biscuits I kept by me for such emergencies. A medical 
orderly also gave me some of his white bread, so I am able to 
get along pretty well. I ought to have something of the kind 
here in case of emergencies, and perhaps also a small packet of 
semolina or oat flakes, which I could have cooked for me. But 
by the time you get this letter, the matter will be a thing of 
the past. . . . 


August 31st 1943 

For the last day or two I have been back again to normal 
and have got quite a lot of writing done. When I find myself 
back in the cell after a few hours of complete absorption in my 
work it takes me a moment or two to get my bearings again. 
It still seems incredible that I am here. However much I get 
used to the external conditions of prison life, it doesn’t seem 
natural. 

It is quite interesting to watch this gradual process of self- 
adaptation. I was given a knife and fork to eat with a week 
ago — a new concession — and they seemed almost unnecessary, 
it had become so natural to spread bread, etc., with a spoon. 
But there are other things which are so irrational, e.g. the 
actual state of being in prison, that it is impossible to get used 
to them, or at least very hard. The only thing to do is to 
accept it quite consciously. Surely there must be some books 
on the psychology of prison life? 

Delbnick’s History of the World makes good reading, 
though it seems to be more of a history of Germany. I have 
finished Die Mikrobenjager , and enjoyed it very much. Other- 
wise I have been reading some more Storm, though I can’t say 
I was very much impressed by it on the whole. I do hope 
you’re going to bring me some more Fontane or Stifter. . . . 

September 3th 1943 

There is no need to compare notes about the night before 
last. The view from the window was unforgettable — the livid 

49 ] 



AIR RAIDS AND JEREMIAH 

sky, etc. What a relief when the warder told me next morning 
that you were safe. It is remarkable how we think at such 
times about those we should not like to live without, and for- 
get all about ourselves. It makes one realize how closely our 
lives are bound up with other people’s, and in fact how our 
centre is outside of ourselves and how little we are individuals. 
To say ‘as though it were a part of me’ 1 is perfectly true, as I 
have often found after hearing that one of my colleagues or 
pupils has fallen. I think it is a literal fact of nature that human 
life extends far beyond our physical existence. Probably a 
mother feels this more than anybody. There are however two 
passages in the Bible which to my mind sum it all up better 
than anything else. One is from Jeremiah 45: ‘Behold, that 
which I have built will I break down, and that which I have 
planted I will pluck up. . . . And seekest thou great things for 
thyself? Seek them not: .... but thy life will I give unto 
thee for a prey’; and the other from Psalm 60: ‘Thou hast 
moved the land and divided it; heal the sores thereof for it 
shaketh.’ . . . 

I wish you would let me know whether you have had the 
anti-shrapnel trench dug, and whether it is not possible to 
make an exit from the cellar to the trench. Captain M. has had 
one made for himself. 

I am still getting on all right. I have been moved two floors 
lower on account of the raids, and I now have a direct view 
on to the Church towers from my window, which is very 
nice. This last week or so I have been able to write quite well 
again. The only thing I miss is exercise in the open air, which 
I still depend upon a great deal for any really worthwhile 
work. But it won’t be long now, and that’s the main thing. 

r 


September 13th 1943 

Last time I said I should like to have more letters, and now 
a whole sheaf has arrived to-day. You can imagine how glad 

1 * als wars ein Stuck von tnir from the soldier’s song, Ich hatt 9 einen 
Kameraden. (Translator.) 


[SO 



DEPENDENCE 


I am. A day when the post comes is a red letter day which 
breaks the drab monotony of prison hfe. I have also been 
granted permission to speak to visitors, so things are now 
looking up. After the wretched delay in the delivery of mail 
this last week or two I have felt very grateful for that. I was 
glad you seemed a little better when you came. What depresses 
me more than any other aspect of the case is that ypu were 
not able to get away for the holiday you so badly needed. You 
must get away before winter — and how wonderful it would 
be if I could come too ! . . . 

It’s a queer feeling to be so utterly dependent on the help of 
others, but at least it teaches one to be grateful, a lesson I hope 
I shall never forget. In normal Hfe we hardly realize how much 
more we receive than we give, and hfe cannot be rich without 
such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of 
our own achievements compared with what we owe to the 
help of others. 

The turbulent events in the world outside during the last 
few days make me feel how much I should like to be some- 
where where I could be useful. But for the time being my job is 
to stay in prison, and what I can do here makes its contribution 
in the unseen world, though that hardly comes under the 
category of active service. I often think of Schubert’s Munnich 
and his crusade. 

For the rest I am reading and writing for all I am worth, 
and am glad to say I’ve never had a moment’s boredom, 
although I have been here more than five months now. My 
time is always fully occupied, but in the background there is 
always a gnawing sense of waiting for something to happen^ 

A few weeks ago I asked you to get me some new books: 
N. Hartmann’s Systematische Philosophic, and Das ■ Zeitalter des 
Marius und Sulla, published by Diederichs. Now I should also 
like Die Deutsche Musik by R. Benz. I would not like to miss 
these^ things, and should be glad to get them read while I am 
still here. K. F. wrote about a book on physics written for the 
lay man, and said he would send it to me. I have practically 
finished everything worth reading here. Perhaps I shall have 
another go at Jean Paul’s Siebenkas or Flegeljahren. I have them 

5i] 



THE GERMAN LANGUAGE 


here in my room. I don’t suppose I should ever tackle them 
again, and there are well-read people who think a lot of them. 
But despite several attempts I have always found him long- 
winded and too full of mannerisms. But as we are in the 
middle of September, I hope these wishes will already be out 
of date before they are fulfilled. 


September 25th 1943 

I should like it much better if one were told in advance 
how long a business like this was likely to last. Even in my 
work here there is much that I could have done differently 
and more profitably. The way we are made, every day and 
every week are precious. Paradoxical though it may sound, I 
was really glad yesterday when first the permission for a 
lawyer and then the warrant for my arrest came. So it seems 
that the apparently purposeless waiting will soon be at an end. 
All the same, being in custody so long has been an experience 
I shall never forget. . . . For the rest, I am getting some writing 
done, and am noticing that I also enjoy non-theological 
authors. For the first time in my life I have discovered how 
difficult the German language can be, and how easily it can be 
spoilt. . . . 

Reading this letter through, I notice it sounds rather dis- 
grunded. I did not mean it to be so. Much as I long to be out 
of here, I don’t believe a single day has been wasted. What 
will come out of my time here it is too early to say. But 
something is bound to come out of it. . . . 


October 4th 1943 

What dehghtful autumn weather we are having! If only 
you were at Friedrichsbrunn, and I with you, and Hans and 
his family too! But there must be thousands who cannot have 
what they want. I can’t agree with Diogenes that the summum 
bonum is the absence of desire, or that the best place to live in 
is a tub. Why should we pretend that all our geese are swans? 

[52 



THE BEAUTIFUL WORLD 

All the same I do believe it is good for us not to have every- 
thing we want, especially when we are young, though it 
would be wrong to give up wishing for anything, for then we 
should grow apathetic. But there is no danger of that happen- 
ing to me at the moment. 

A letter from C. has just arrived. It is astonishing how his 
mind keeps preying on the subject. What effect it must have 
on a fourteen year old lad to have to write to his father and 
godfather in prison for months on end! He cannot have many 
illusions left about the world. No doubt all this means the end 
of his childhood. Please thank him for his letter — I am very- 
much looking forward to seeing him again. 

I am glad you were able to get hold of Hartmann’s Sy sterna- 
tische Philosophic. I am getting down to it properly, and it will 
keep me going for several weeks, if the interruption I hope for 
does not occur in the meantime. . . . 


October 13th 1943 

I have in front of me the gay bunch of dahlias you brought 
me yesterday. It is a reminder of the lovely hour I was allowed 
to have with you, and it also reminds me of the garden and 
of the loveliness of the world in general. One of Storm’s 
verses I came across the other day seems to express my mood, 
and keeps going through my head like a tune one cannot get 
rid of: 


And though the world outside be mad , 

Christian or unchristian , 

Yet the world , the beautiful world 
Is utterly indestructible. 1 

All I need to bring that home to me is a few autumn flowers, 
the view from my cell window, and half an hour’s exercise in 

1 Undgeht es draussen noch so toll , 
unchristlich oder christlichj 
1st dock die Welt } die schone Welt 
so ganzlich unverwiistlich. 


53 ] 



REFORMATION DAY 


the courtyard, where the chestnuts and limes are looking 
lovely. But in the last resort, the world, for me at any rate, 
consists of those few we would like to see, and whose com- 
pany we long to share. . . . And if I could also hear a good 
sermon on Sundays — I often hear fragments of the chorales 
carried up here on the breeze — it would be better still. 

Once again I have been doing a good deal of writing. The 
day seems much too short for all the work I want to get 
through — strangely enough I have often had the feeling here 
that there was no time’ here for work and for less important 
matters! After breakfast every morning (about 7 o’clock) I 
read some theology, then I write until midday; in the after- 
noon I read, and then comes a chapter out of Delbriick’s 
History of the World, and some English grammar — of which 
I still have a lot to learn, and finally, as the mood takes me, I 
read or write again. . . . 


October 31st 1943 

. . . To-day is Reformation Day, a feast which in our 
times can give one plenty to think about. One wonders how it 
was Luther’s action led to consequences which were the exact 
opposite of what he intended, and which overshadowed the 
last years of his life and work, so that he doubted the value of 
everything he had achieved. He desired a real unity both for 
the Church and for Western Christendom, but the consequence 
was the ruin of both. He sought the ‘Freedom of the Chnstian 
Man’, and the consequence was apathy and barbarism. He 
hoped to see the establishment of a genuine social order free 
from clerical privilege, and the outcome was the Peasants’ 
Revolt, and soon afterwards the gradual dissolution of all real 
cohesion and order in society. I remember from my student 
days a debate between Holl and Hamack as to whether in any 
movement it was the primary or the secondary motives which 
finally prevailed. At the time I thought Holl was right in main- 
taining that it was the former. To-day I am sure he was wrong. 
Kierkegaard said more than a century ago that if Luther were 
alive then he would have said the exact opposite of what he said 

[54 



MORE BOOKS 


in the sixteenth century. I believe he was right — cum grano sails . 

Now a further request. Would you please order for me: 
Lesebuch der Erzahler , by Wolf-Dietrich Rasch (published by 
Kiepenheuer, 1943), Die Ballade by Wilhelm von Scholz (pub- 
lished by Theodor Knauer, 1943), Briefe der Liebe aus 8 
Jahrhunderten by Friedrich Reck-Malleszewen (published by 
Keil, 1943)? Perhaps the editions are not large, and therefore 
they must be ordered at once. 

A short time ago my rheumatism was so bad that I could 
not get up from my chair without help or lift my hands to 
feed myself. But they at once gave me electrical treatment in 
the sick ward, and it is much better now, though I have not 
been completely free of it since May. Is there anything I could 
do about it later? . . . 


November 9th 1943 

I was very surprised and pleased with the Stifter Anthology. 
As it consists mainly of extracts from his letters it was almost 
new to me. My overriding interest for the last ten days has 
been the Witiko , which, after my giving you so much 
trouble to hunt for it, was discovered in the library here, the 
last place I should have expected to find it. Most people to-day 
would find its 1,000 pages — which cannot be skipped, but 
have to be read quietly — altogether beyond them, and so I am 
uncertain whether to recommend it to you or not. But for 
me it is one of the most beautiful books I know. The purity of 
his style and his character-drawing gives one a rare and 
unique feeling of bliss. I really should have started at the age of 
fourteen with this book instead of the Kampf um Rom , and 
then have grown up with it. It is definitely sui generis, I should 
love to possess it, but it would hardly be possible to get hold 
of it. The only historical romances which have made any 
comparable impression on me hitherto are Don Quixote and 
Gotthelf ’s Berner GeisL I have had another shot at Jean Paul, 
but still can’t make anything of him. I can’t get away from the 
feeling that he is flippant and too full of mannerisms. He must 
have been just as odious as a man too. — It is lovely to go like 

55 ] 



THE B MINOR MASS 


this on voyages of literary discovery, and it is amazing what 
surprises one comes across after so many years of reading. 
Perhaps you have further suggestions to make? 

A few days ago I had a letter from R., for which I thank 
him very much. It made my mouth water to read the pro- 
gramme of the Furtwangler concert he was at. I hope I shan’t 
forget what still remains of my technique while I am here. 
I often get downright hungry for a trio, a quartet, or an even- 
ing’s sing-song. My ear longs for a change from the voices in 
this building. More than seven months here is really quite 
enough. But of course that is only to be expected, and there’s 
no need to mention it to you. The wonderful thing however 
is that I am getting on all right here, that I have many little 
pleasures, and manage to keep cheerful all the time. So I’ve 
got a lot to be thankful for every day. . . . 


November 17th 1943 

To-day is Repentance Day, and as I write this letter the 
S.’s are all hstening to the B Minor Mass. For years now I 
have associated it with this particular day like the St. Matthew 
Passion with Good Friday. I have a vivid recollection of the 
evening I first heard it. I was eighteen, and had just come from 
Hamack’s seminar. He had been discussing my first seminar 
essay very kindly, and said he hoped that some day I should 
specialize in Church History. I was full of this when I entered 
the Philharmonic Hall, where the great Kyrie Eleison was just 
beginning. In a moment it put everything else out of my 
mind: it was an indescribable impression. To-day I am going 
through the whole work bit by bit in my mind, and am glad 
the S.’s can hear it, my favourite work of Bach. 

It is nearly evening now, and all quiet in the house. So I can 
pursue my thoughts undisturbed. In the course of the day I 
keep on discovering how noisy men can be at their work. No 
doubt they were bom like it. A fortissimo just outside my cell 
is hardly the right background for serious study. 

I have been re-reading Goethe’s Reinecke Fuchs this last week 
with great enjoyment. Perhaps it would amuse you too. 

[56 



ADVENT SUNDAY 


Advent Sunday 
November 28th 1943 

I have no notion how my letters are reaching you at the 
present moment. I don’t even know whether you are getting 
them at all. But^as it’s Advent Sunday, I do just want to write 
to you this afternoon. Altdorfer’s Nativity is very topical this 
year, with its picture of the Holy Family and the crib beneath 
a ruined house — how did he come to defy tradition in this way 
four hundred years ago? Was his meaning that Christmas 
could and should be kept even under such conditions as these? 
Anyhow, that is his message for us. I love to think of you 
sitting down with the children and keeping Advent as you 
used to years ago with us. The only difference is that we enter 
into it more intensely to-day, since we know not how much 
longer it is likely to last. 

It still makes me shudder when I think what an awful night 
you had, and one really dreadful moment, without either of 
us with you. I can’t see why I should be shut up in times like 
these with nothing to do. I do hope it will soon be over now, 
and that there won’t be much more delay. All the same, don’t 
worry about me. We shall come out of it all much 
strengthened. 

The long-awaited attack on near-by Borsig has come at last, 
as you know already. One can’t help hoping, though it’s not 
a very Christian hope, that our district will now be spared for 
some time. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, and when I am released, 
I shall offer a few suggestions for the improvement of the 
organization here during incidents of this kind. By a miracle 
not a pane of glass was broken in my windows, whereas nearly 
all the others are gone completely. It makes it terribly cold for 
the other men. Owing to the partial destruction of the prison 
wall all exercise has been temporarily suspended. If only we 
could hear from one another after an attack! 

These last few days I have been enjoying H. W. Riehl’s 
Geschichten aus alten Zeiten . Perhaps you remember the book 
from earlier times. To-day it is well-nigh forgotten, though 
it’s still a good book and enjoyable to read. It would also be 

57 ] 



ACCEPTANCE 


suitable for reading aloud to the children. I seem to remember 
we used to have some of his works at home, but they must 
have been given away for some bazaar or other. 

It would be nice if you could bring me the book on super- 
stition. They have started consulting the cards here about the 
chances of a raid during the coming night. It is interesting how 
superstition thrives in times like these, and how many are ready 
to listen, at least with half an ear. 


December 17th 1943 

I am writing my Christmas letter already so as to be on 
the safe side. If, contrary to all expectation, I should still be here 
at Christmas, the past eight and a half months have taught me 
that it is the unexpected that happens, and that the inevitable 
must be accepted with a sacrijicium intellectus , though the 
sacrijicium is never quite complete, and the intellectus still goes 
its own sweet way. 

I am not going to let this lonely Christmas get me 
down. It will always take its place among the other unusual 
Christmasses of my life, in Spain, Africa, America and Eng- 
land. In years to come I shall not look back on this Christmas 
with shame, but with a certain pride. That is the only thing 
no one can take away from me. 

Of course you cant help thinking of my being in prison 
over Christmas, and it is bound to throw a shadow over the 
few hours of happiness which still await you in these times. 
All I can do to help is to assure you that I know you will keep 
it in the same spirit as I do, for we are agreed on how Christmas 
ought to be kept. How could it be otherwise when my attitude 
to Christmas is a heritage I owe to you? I need not tell you 
how much I long to be released and to see you all again. But 
for years you have given us such lovely Christmasses, that our 
grateful memories are strong enough to cast their rays over a 
darker one. In times like these we learn as never before what it 
means to possess a past and a spiritual heritage untrammelled 
by the changes and chances of the present. A spiritual heritage 
reaching back for centuries is a wonderful support and comfort 

[58 



CHRISTMAS 


in face of all temporary stresses and strains. I believe that 
the man who is aware of such reserves of power need not be 
ashamed of the tender feelings evoked by the memory of a 
rich and noble past, for such feelings belong in my opinion to 
the better and nobler part of mankind. They will not over- 
whelm those who hold fast to values of which no man can 
deprive them. 

For a Christian there is nothing peculiarly difficult about 
Christmas in a prison cell. I daresay it will have more meaning 
and will be observed with greater sincerity here in this prison 
than in places where all that survives of the feast is its name. 
That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness and 
guilt look very different to the eyes of God from what they 
do to man, that God should come down to the very place 
which men usually abhor, that Christ was bom in a stable 
because there was no room for him in the inn — these are things 
which a prisoner can understand better than anyone else. For 
him the Christmas story is glad tidings in a very real sense. 
And that faith gives him a part in the communion of saints, a 
fellowship transcending the bounds of time and space and 
. reducing the months of confinement here to insignificance. 

On Christmas Eve I shall be thinking of you all very much, 
and I want you to believe that I too shall have a few hours of 
real joy and that I am not allowing my troubles to get the 
better of me. . . . 

When one remembers the awful time so many are having 
in Berlin, it brings home to one more than anything else how 
much there is to be thankful for. It will certainly be a quiet 
Christmas for everybody, and the children will look back on 
'fft for long afterwards. But for the first time, perhaps, many 
v will learn the true meaning of Christmas. 


December 31st 1943 

Christmas is over. It has brought me a few peaceful hours 
and revived many memories of the past. My gratitude for your 
preservation — and of the whole family — in the heavy air raids 
and my confidence of seeing you all again in the not too distant 

59 ] 



NEW YEAR 


future was greater than all my troubles. I lit the candles you 
and M. sent me and read the Christmas story and a few 
beautiful carols and hummed them over to myself. This 
helped me to think of you all and to hope that you all might 
enjoy an hour or two of quietness after all the turbulence of 
the past weeks. 

The New Year too will bring many anxieties and disturb- 
ances, though I believe we may on this New Year’s Eve sing 
with greater confidence that verse from the New Year’s 
hymn: 


Shut fast the doors of woe , 

In every place let flow 
The streams of joy and peace, 
That bloodshed now may cease . 

I know no greater prayer or wish than that. 


January 14th 1944 

... I am sitting by the open window with the sunshine 
streaming in almost like spring. I take it for a good omen, 
this lovely beginning of the year. Compared to last year with 
all its troubles, this year can only be better. — I am getting on 
all right. I find it easier to concentrate, and am enjoying 
Dilthey very much indeed. . . . 


February 20th 1944 

Forgive me for not writing regularly for the past few 
weeks. I had hoped to have some definite news about my case, 
so I put off writing from day to day. They once told me quite 
definitely that everything would be settled by July 1943, then, 
as you yourselves will remember, it was to be September at 
the very latest. But now it is dragging on from month to 
month and nothing seems to happen. I’m quite sure that if 
they only got down to business the whole thing would be 

[60 



A FRAGMENTARY GENERATION 

cleared up without any difficulty. And to t hin 1c of all that is 
waiting outside for me to do! However hard I try to be 
patient and understanding, I sometimes feel it is better not to 
write any letters, but to keep silent. For in the first place my 
disordered thoughts and feelings would only give birth to 
wrong words, and secondly what I write would be very much 
out of date by the time it reached its destination. It costs no 
little effort to keep soberly to the facts, to banish illusions and 
fancies from my head and to content myself with things as 
they are. For where the external causes are shrouded in 
mystery one cannot help feeling that there must be some 
interior and invisible cause at work. Moreover our generation 
can no longer expect as yours could a life which finds full 
scope in professional and private activities, and thus achieve 
perfection and poise. And to make matters worse, we have the 
example of your life still before our eyes, which makes us 
painfully aware of the fragmentariness of our own. Yet this 
very fragmentariness points towards a fulfilment beyond the 
limits of human achievement. That is something which the 
death of so many of my pupils has brought home to me with 
particular force. Even though our lives may be blown to bits 
by the pressure of events as our houses are by the bombs, yet 
we should still have a glimpse of the way in which the whole 
was planned and conceived, and of what material we were 
building with or should have used had we lived. 


March 3rd 1944 

I daresay you have heard from M. how I said last time that 
our rations had been cut, a subject which we hardly ever 
mention. This makes us rather short of food, and I sometimes 
get rather hungry. This however may be partly due to the fact 
that I had a touch of the ’flu a few days ago and hardly felt 
like eating anything. Once more however you have come to 
the rescue, and I must frankly admit that the world looks 
quite a different place on a full stomach, and that it makes work 
easier too. All the same, I should hate to think I was depriving 
you of food when you have so much to do all day and need 
61] 



THE GREAT NINETEENTH CENTURY 

your strength more urgently than I. Now March has come 
again, and you have stiJl not got away for a holiday. 

I have been reading Hamack’s history of the Prussian 
Academy. In some ways it makes enjoyable reading, but at 
times it’s rather depressing. There are so few nowadays who 
have any real interest or sympathy for the nineteenth century. 
Contemporary music draws its inspiration from the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries, theology from the Reformation, 
philosophy from St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, while the 
fashionable Weltanschauung seeks to return to the Teutonic 
past. Hardly anyone has the slightest idea what was achieved 
during the last century by our own grandfathers. How much 
of what they knew has already been forgotten! I believe people 
will one day be utterly amazed at the fertility of that age, now 
so much despised and so little known. 

Could you please get hold of Dilthey’s Weltanschauung und 
Analyse des Menschen seit Renaissance und Reformation for me? 


April 26th 1944 

This is my second spring in prison, but a very different 
one from last year. Then all my impressions were still fresh 
and vivid, and both hardships and joys were felt more keenly. 
Since then something has happened which I should never have 
thought possible — I have got used to it. The only thing that 
puzzles me is, which has been greater, the growth of insensi- 
tivity or the clarification of experience? It probably varies in 
different connexions. The things we get insensitive to are soon 
forgotten, since they are but trivial, whereas the things we 
have consciously or unconsciously assimilated will never be 
forgotten. Intense experience forges them into certainties, con- 
victions and plans for the future, so that they become important 
for after-life. There is all the difference in the world between 
a month in prison and a whole year. A year brings not only 
interesting and intense impressions, but opens up a wholly 
new and far-reaching sphere of life. At the same time I am 
sure it requires certain interior presuppositions in order to be 
able to assimilate this particular aspect of life, and I think that 

[62 



COMFORT 


a long confinement is extremely dangerous for the very young, 
as far as their spiritual development is concerned. The impres- 
sions of prison life are so overwhelming that they threaten to 
throw a good deal over board. — I must thank you for the 
comfort you give me by your continual visits, letters and 
parcels, and for the joy your greetings give me. It never palls, 
and each time I am encouraged afresh to use my time here to 
the full. Could you try and get hold of Ortega y Gasset’s new 
book, The Nature of Historical Crises, and if possible his earlier 
work, History as a System , and also H. Pfeifer’s Das Britische 
Empire und die U.S.A.H Let’s hope we shall meet again soon! 

With all good wishes, 

Your grateful 

Dietrich 


63] 



V 

Letters to a Friend, 

Poems and Miscellaneous Papers 

November 18th 1943 

As you are in the neighbourhood, I am taking this oppor- 
tunity of writing to you. You know of course that I am not 
even allowed to have a clergyman to see me. ... So let me 
tell you what you ought to know about me. For the first 
twelve days I was segregated as a dangerous criminal and 
treated as one, and even to this day the cells each side of me 
are occupied by men in handcuffs awaiting death. During this 
time Paul Gerhardt was a wonderful help, more than I could 
have dreamed. So were the psalms and the Apocalypse. They 
helped to preserve me from any serious spiritual trial. You are 
the only person in the world who knows how often I have 
nearly given way to accidie , tristitia, with all its damaging 
effects on the soul. I feared at the time that you must be 
worrying about me on that account. But I told myself from 
the beginning that I wasn’t going to oblige either the devil or 
man — they would just have to lump it — and I hope I shall 
always stick to my determination. At first I wondered a great 
deal whether it was really for the cause of Christ that I was 
giving you all this heart-break, but I soon put that out of my 
head as a temptation, and made up my mind that it was my 
duty to face the worst. In this way I became quite content 
about it all, and have remained so until this day (1 Peter 
2.20; 3.14). 

I was annoyed that I had not had time to finish my Ethics 
(it is probably confiscated for the time being), and it was 
some comfort to know I had told you the essentials, and even 
if you have forgotten what I told you it will doubtless emerge 
again in some shape or form. My ideas were still in a raw 
state, anyhow. 

I was also disappointed not to be able to receive the sacra- 
menjt with you, as I had hoped for a long time . . . but I 

[64 



VARIOUS WRITINGS 

know that although we have not been able to receive it 
physically, we have done so spiritually, and for that we 
may be glad and contented. But I did just want to tell you so. 

I have been reading the Bible every day, and as soon as it 
was possible I started on some non-theological work. I have 
read the Old Testament through two and a half times, and 
have learnt a great deal. Then I began an essay on the subject 
of Zeitgejiihl (the feeling of time) as an attempt to sort out my 
memories of my own past in a situation in which time might 
so easily seem to be empty and wasted. But more of that later. 

Then I started on a bold enterprise that I have been thinking 
of for a long time, the story of a contemporary middle class 
family. The background for this was our frequent conversa- 
tions on the subject and my own personal experiences. In 
short, it was to be a rehabilitation of middle class life as we 
have known it in our own families, and especially in the light 
of the Christian religion. It runs something like this. There are 
two families friendly with one another living in a small town. 
As their children grow up they gradually enter into the respon- 
sibilities of official positions, and they try to work together 
for the good of the community in their several capacities — 
mayor, doctor, parson, teacher, and engineer. You will 
recognize many familiar traits, and you come into it 
too. But I haven’t got much further than the beginning, 
largely because my hopes of release have been continually 
disappointed, which has made it difficult for me to concen- 
trate. But it gives me a great deal of pleasure. Only I wish I 
could talk it over with you every day. I miss that more than 
you think. . . . 

As well as this I have written an essay on ‘Speaking the 
Truth’, and at the moment I am trying to compile some 
prayers for use in prison. It’s strange there don’t seem to be 
any in existence. I hope to have them distributed at Christmas. 

And now for my reading. It is a great pity we never read 
any Stifter together; it would have been a great help for us in 
our talks. We shall have to put it off till later. But I have quite 
a lot to tell you about him. I wonder when! I have made my 
will and given it to my solicitor, in case the worst should 
65 ] 



PRAYER 


happen, though I should not be surprised if you are in greater 
danger than I am. I shall be thinking of you every day, and 
praying God to keep you safe, and bring you home again. . . . 
I wonder whether, supposing I am acquitted and released, and 
I had to join up, there is any chance of my getting into your 
regiment? That would be wonderful! But don’t worry about 
me at all if I should be condemned — one never knows what 
may happen. It does not worry me at all, except that I should 
have to sit here a few months awaiting my execution, which 
would not be pleasant. But then there is a good deal that is 
not pleasant! The charge on which I would be condemned is 
so unobjectionable that I should actually be proud of it. Still, 
I hope that if God preserves us we shall at least be able to 
spend Easter together and enjoy ourselves together once 
more. . . . 

Let us however promise to remain true and pray for one 
another. I shall pray that you may be given strength and 
health, patience and protection through all trials and tempta- 
tions — and you must make the same prayer for me. And if 
it should be decided that we never meet again, let us remember 
one another to the end with thoughts of gratitude and forgive- 
ness — and may God grant that we may stand together before 
his throne one day, praying for one another and joi nin g 
together in praise and thanksgiving. 

. . . My greatest difficulty here (I think it would be yours 
too) seems to be getting up in the morning (see Jeremiah 
31.26!). I am praying now quite simply for my release. There 
is a false kind of inertia which is quite un-Christian. We Chris- 
tians need not be ashamed of showing a little impatience, long- 
ing and discontent with an unnatural fate, nor with a con- 
siderable amount of longing for freedom, earthly happiness 
and opportunity for work. We agree about that too, I am sure. 

Well, in spite of, or rather because of, all we are going 
through, each of us in his own way, we shall still be the same 
as of old, shan’t we? I hope you don’t think I’m going to pieces 
here — I was never in less danger of that. And I believe the 
same applies to you. Won’t it be a happy day when we can 
exchange experiences ! I often get furious at not being free yet. 

[66 



PRAYERS FOR FELLOW PRISONERS 


PRAYERS FOR FELLOW PRISONERS 
Christmas 1943 

MORNING PRAYERS 

O God , 

Early in the morning do I cry unto thee . 

Help me to pray , 

And to think only of thee. 

I cannot pray alone. 


In me there is darkness , 

But with thee there is light . 

I am lonely , hut thou leavest me not. 

I am feeble in heart , hut thou leavest me not. 

I am restless, but with thee there is peace. 

In me there is bitterness, but with thee there is patience; 
Thy ways are past understanding , but 
Thou knowest the way for me. 

O heavenly Father, 

I praise and thank thee 
For the peace of the night. 

I praise and thank thee for this new day . 

I praise and thank thee for all thy goodness 
and faithfulness throughout my life. 

Thou hast granted me many blessings: 

Now let me accept tribulation 
from thy hand. 

Thou wilt not lay on me more 
than I can bear . 

Thou makest all things work together for good 
for thy children. 


67] 



PRAYERS FOR FELLOW PRISONERS 

Lord Jesus Christ 
Thou wast poor 

and in misery , a captive and forsaken as I am. 

Thou knowest all man s distress; 

Thou abidest with me 
when all others have deserted me; 

Thou doest not forget me , but seekest me. 

Thou ivillest that I should know thee and 
turn to thee. 

Lord , I hear thy call and follow thee; 

Do thou help me. 

O Holy Spirit , 

Grant me the faith that will protect me from 
despair : deliver me from the lusts of the flesh. 

Pour into my heart such love for thee and for men, 
that all hatred and bitterness may be blotted out. 

Grant me the hope that will deliver me from fear 
and timidity. 

O Holy, merciful God, 
my Creator and Redeemer, 
my Judge and my Saviour, 

Thou knowest me and all that I do. 

Thou hatest and dost punish evil without respect of persons 
in this ivorld and the next. 

Thou forgivest the sins of them 
that heartily pray for forgiveness. 

Thou lovest goodness and rewardest it on this earth 
with a clear conscience, and in the world to come 
with the croivn of righteousness. 

Chiefly do I remember all my loved ones, 
my fellow-prisoners, and all who 
in this house perform their hard service. 

Lord have mercy. 

Restore me to liberty, 
and enable me so to live now > 
that I may answer before thee and before the wortd. 


[68 



PRAYERS FOR FELLOW PRISONERS 


Lord , whatever this day may bring. 

Thy Name be praised. 

Amen. 

★ ★ * 

In my sleep He watches yearning 
and restores my soul 
so that each recurring morning 
love and goodness make me ivhole. 

Were God not there, 
his face not near, 

He had not led me out of fear. 

All things have their time and sphere: 

God's love lasts for ever. 

(Paul Gerhardt ) 

Evening Prayers 

0 Lord my God, I thank thee that thou 

hast brought this day to a close; 

1 thank thee that thou hast given me peace 

in body and in soul . 

Thy hand has been over me and has protected 
and preserved me. 

Forgive my puny faith, 
the ill that I this day have done , 
and help me to forgive all who 
have wronged me. 

Grant me a quiet night’s sleep beneath 
thy tender care. 

And defend me from all the temptations 
of darkness. 

Into thy hands I commend my loved ones, 
and all who dwell in this house; 

I commend my body and soul. 

69] 



PRAYERS FOR FELLOW PRISONERS 

O God, thy holy Name be praised . 

Amen . 

★ ★ ★ 

Each day tells the other 
my life is but a journey 
to great and endless life . 

0 siveetness of eternity 
may my heart groiv to love thee: 
tny home is not in timers strife . 

( Tersteegen) 

Prayers in Time of Distress 
O Lord God , 

Great is the misery that has come upon me; 

My cares ivould overwhelm me, 

1 know not ivhat to do. 

O God , be gracious unto me and help me. 

Grant me strength to bear ivhat thou dost send, 
and let not fear rule over me. 

As a loving Father, take care of my loved ones 
My wife and children. 

O merciful God, forgive me all 
the sins I have committed against thee, 
and against my fellowmen. 

I trust in thy grace, and commit my 
life wholly into thy hands. 

Do with me as seemeth best to thee, and as 
is best for me. 

Whether I live or die, I am with thee, 
and thou art with me, my God. 

Lord, I ivait for thy salvation, 
and for thy Kingdom. 

Amen. 

★ ★ ★ 


[70 



LETTERS TO A FRIEND 

Every Christian in his place 
should be brave and free, 
with the world face to face. 

Though death strikes, his spirit should 
persevere, without fear 
calm and good . 

For death cannot destroy 
but from grief brings relief 
and opens gates to joy . 

Closed the door of bitter pain, 
bright the way where we may 
all heaven gain . 

(Paul Gerhardt) 

LETTERS TO A FRIEND 

November 20th 1943 

If I should still be here over Christmas, don’t worry about 
me. I should not really be frightened about it. A Christian can 
keep Christmas even in prison, more easily than family occa- 
sions, anyhow. My special thanks for getting permission to 
visit me. I am not expecting any complications this time. I 
didn’t dare to ask you to do anything about it. I only hope it 
will come off this time. But you know that even if it is refosed 
at the last moment, there is still the joy of thinking that you 
have tried, and it will only serve to make us more angry with 
certain people 1 for the time being (I sometimes think I don’t 
get nearly angry enough over the whole business). So if it 
comes to that, let us swallow even that bitter pill, for after all 
we have been gradually getting used to such things in the past 
few months. I’m so glad I saw you just when I was arrested, 
and I shall never forget it. 

Just one more point — about my daily routine. I get up at 
the same time as you do, and my day lasts till eight in the 
evening. I wear out my trousers sitting down while you wear 
out your soles running about. I read the Voelkischer Beobachter 
and the Reich, and I’ve got to know some very nice people. 

1 Dr. Roeder. 


71 ] 



PUNISHMENT 


Every day they take me for half an hour’s exercise, and in the 
afternoon they are giving me treatment for my rheumatism — I 
must say, they are very gentle with me, but it doesn’t seem to 
do me much good. Once a week I get the most wonderful 
food parcels from you. Many thanks for them, and also for the 
cigars and cigarettes you sent me when you were away. I only 
hope you get your fill — are you often hungry? That would be 
too awful for words. There is nothing I miss here, except all 
of you. I wish you and I could play the G minor sonata and 
sing some Schiitz together, and you could read to me Psalms 
70 and 47. They were the best you ever did! 

My cell is being spring cleaned. During the operations I am 
able to give the cleaner something to eat. One of them was 
sentenced to death the other day — that was a shock for me. 
In seven and a half months there is plenty to see, and especially 
one notices the tremendous consequences which may follow 
trivial acts of folly. I think a lengthy confinement is demor- 
alizing for the bulk of the prisoners. I have been thinking out 
an alternative penal system, the principle of which is that 
everybody should be punished in the sphere in which his 
crime was committed: e.g. for absence without leave, the 
cancelling of all leave; for unlawful wearing of medals, 
longer service at the front; for robbing other soldiers, the 
temporary wearing of a label stating that the man is a thief; 
for blackmarketing, the reduction of rations, etc. Why is it 
that the Old Testament never punishes a man by depriving 
him of his liberty? 


November 21st 1943 

To-day is Remembrance Sunday . . . and after it comes 
Advent, with all its happy memories for you and me. . . . Life 
in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent — one waits 
and hopes and potters about, but in the end what we do is of 
little consequence, for the door is shut, and it can only be 
opened from the outside. This idea has just occurred to me. 
But you must not think that we go in for symbolism very 
much here! And there are other things I have to tell you 

[72 



RELIGIOSITY 


which may perhaps surprise you. One thing is that I do miss 
sitting down to table with others. The presents you send me 
acquire here a sacramental value; they remind me of the times 
we have sat down to table together. Perhaps the reason why 
we attach so much importance to sitting down to table 
together is that table fellowship is one of the realities of the 
Kingdom of God. Another thing is that I have found great 
help in Luther’s advice that we should start our morning and 
evening prayers by making the sign of the cross. There is 
something objective about it, and that is what I need very 
badly here. Don’t worry, I shan’t come out of here a homo 
religiosusl On the contrary my suspicion and horror of religi- 
osity are greater than ever. I often think of how the Israelites 
never uttered the name of God. I can understand that much 
better than I used to. 

I am finding Tertullian, Cyprian and others of the Fathers 
extremely interesting. In some ways they are more relevant to 
our age than the Reformers, and another thing about them is 
that they provide a common platform between Protestants and 
Catholics. 

... "With regard to my case, I am convinced on purely legal 
grounds that my condemnation is out of the question. 


November 22nd 1943 

... Tell me how do you get on with the soldiers with your 
determination to take no notice of false accusations? Several 
times here I have given someone a dressing down for being 
impertinent, and they were so flabbergasted that they haven’t 
given me any trouble since. I enjoy this sort of thing, but I 
know I oughtn’t to be so sensitive about it. It makes me 
furious to see people who are unable to defend themselves 
being rebuked and sworn at. This streak of sadism in some 

people gets me worked up for hours on end The Neues Lied , 

which I got only a day or two ago, has brought back hosts of 
pleasant memories. You see, I am always thinking of things I 
want to talk over with you, and having begun again after all 
this long time I find it difficult to stop ! . . . 

73 ] 



A CIGAR FROM KARL BARTH 


November 23rd 1943 

Last night’s raid wasn’t exactly pleasant. I was thinking of 
you all the time. At such moments prison life is no joke. I do 
hope you will be going back to S. again. It surprised me last 
night to see how nervous some of the soldiers who have come 
straight from the front line were while the alarm was on. 


November 24th 1943 

After yesterday’s raid I think it is only right that I should 
. let you know what arrangements I have made in case of my 
death. ... I hope you will read this with your usual absence 
of sentimentality. 


Friday , November 26th 1943 

So it really came off! True, it was all too brief, but that 
does not matter. Even an hour or two wouldn’t be enough. 
After we have been cut off from the world here for so long, 
we become so receptive that even a few minutes gives us food 
for thought for a long time after. I shall often think of how 
the four people who are my nearest and dearest were here with 
me. When I got back to my cell afterwards I paced up and 
down for a whole hour, while my dinner lay waiting for me 
on the table until it got quite cold, and in the end it made me 
laugh when I caught myself saying from time to time, fi How 
wonderful it was!’ I never like calling anything ‘indescribable’, 
for it is a word you hardly ever need use if you take the trouble 
to express yourself clearly, but at the moment that’s just what 
this morning seems to be. Karl’s 1 cigar is on the table before me, 
and that’s something really indescribable! Wasn’t it kind and 
thoughtful of him! — and of V . 2 How grand it was that you 
saw them. And they are my favourite Wolf cigars from 
Hamburg, which I used to love so in better times. And beside 
me on a box there is the Advent crown, and your gigantic eggs 
on the shelf, which will provide my breakfast for several days 
1 Barth. 2 Visser \ Hooft. 


[74 



TERROR IS SHAMEFUL 


to come. It’s no good my saying you ought not to have 
deprived yourselves of them, but that’s what I think, though 
I am glad of them all the same. I can well remember the first 
time I ever visited a prison — it was when I went to see Fritz 
Onnasch, and you came with me. I’m afraid I took it very 
badly, though Fritz was wonderfully cheerful and nice. I do 
hope you didn’t take it so badly when you came here to-day. 
It would be quite wrong to think that prison life is just unin- 
terrupted torture. Far from it. And visits like yours relieve it 
for days on end, even if they do stir up long forgotten mem- 
ories. But that doesn’t do any harm either. It reminds me once 
more how many blessings I had, and gives me new hope and 
resolution. Many thanks, both to yourself and all the others. 


November 27th 1943 

Meanwhile, we have had the long awaited attack on 
Borsig. It was quite strange to see those flares which the leading 
aircraft dropped, just like a Christmas tree, coming down 
straight over my head. The cries of the prisoners in their cells 
were terrible. We had no dead, only injured, but it took us to 
one o’clock to get them all bandaged up. Immediately after- 
wards I was able to drop off in a sound sleep. People are talking 
quite openly about how terrified they were. I don’t quite know 
what to make of it. Surely terror is something we ought to be 
ashamed of, something we ought not to talk about except 
in confession, otherwise it is bound to involve a certain 
amount of exhibitionism. On the other hand naive frankness 
can be utterly disarming. Yet there is also a cynical, I might 
almost say ungodly, kmd of frankness, the kind generally 
associated with drunkenness and whoredom, which is a sign of 
chaos. I am inclined to think that terror is one of the pudenda, 
one of the things that ought to be concealed. I must think 
about it further, and I have no doubt you have got your own 
ideas on the subject. Life in wartime is grim enough, but if we 
manage to live through it, we shall certainly have something 
on which to reconstruct international society, both materially 
and spiritually, on Christian principles. So we must try and 

75 ] 



AIR RAIDS AGAIN 


store up these memories in our minds, allowing them to bear 
fruit, and not frittering them away. Never have we been so 
conscious of the wrath of an angry God, and that is in itself 
a sign of his grace. ‘To-day if you will hear his voice, harden 
not your hearts. 5 The tasks before us are tremendous, but we 
must prepare ourselves for them now, so that we may be 
ready when they come. 


November 28th 1943 

Advent Sunday. — It began with a peaceful night. As I lay 
in bed yesterday evening I looked up our favourite Advent 
hymns in the Neues Lied for the first time. I can hardly hum 
any of them over to myself without thinking of Finkenwalde, 
Schlonwitz and Sigurdshof. 1 Early this morning I held my 
Sunday service, hung up the Advent crown on a nail, and 
fastened Lippi’s picture of the Nativity in the middle of it. 
For breakfast I ate the second of your ostrich eggs — I just 
loved it! Soon after that I was fetched from my cell for an 
examination which lasted until noon. The recent air raids have 
brought a series of calamities — a land mine 25 yards away, the 
windows and the lights all shattered, the prisoners screaming 
for help and no one taking any notice of it apart from our- 
selves, though there was little we could do in the darkness, and 
one has to be cautious in opening the cell doors of the worst 
criminals, for you never know when they will hit you on the 
head with the leg of a chair and try to make a getaway. All 
things considered, it was not very nice! It made me spend 
some time after the raid writing out a report, stressing the 
importance of having first aid equipment available during air 
raids. I hope it will do some good. I am only too glad to be 
able to make some contribution to the general welfare, how- 
ever small, particularly when my suggestions are likely to be 
appreciated. 

By the way, I forgot to tell you that I smoked the Wolf 
cigar in the guardroom yesterday afternoon during a pleasant 
conversation. Its aroma was marvellous — many thanks for it. 

1 Preachers’ Seminaries set up by the Confessing Church in Pomerania. 

[76 



THE ALTDORFER NATIVITY 

Since the raids started the cigarette situation has become 
calamitous. While they were being bandaged, the injured 
asked for a cigarette, and the medical orderlies and I had 
already used up a lot beforehand. So I am all the more grateful 
for what you brought with you the day before yesterday. 
Nearly every window in the place has been blown out, and 
the men are sitting frozen in their cells. I had actually forgotten 
to open my windows as I left the cell, yet they were quite 
undamaged. I’m glad about it, though it makes me terribly 
sorry for the others. How marvellous that you are home for 
Advent! I can imagine you singing hymns together for the first 
time just at this very moment. It makes me think of the 
Altdorfer Nativity and the verse: 

The crib glistens bright and clear; 

The night brings in a new light here . 

Darkness now must fade away, 

For faith within the light must stay . 

and also the Advent melody: 


though not in the usual four four time, but in the swinging 
expectant rhythm which suits the text so much better. After 
this I am going to read another of H. W. Riehl’s amusing 
tales. You would find them great fun too, and they are just 
the thing for reading out aloud to the family. You must try 
and get„hold of them some time. 


November 29th 1943 

This Monday is quite unique. Usually on a Monday morn- 
ing the shouting and swearing in the corridors is at its worst, 
but after die experiences of last week even the noisiest ones 
have become subdued, a change one cannot help noticing! 
Now something which will particularly interest you. During 

77 ] 



HELP FROM OTHERS 


these heavy air raids, and especially the last one, the windows 
were blown out by the land mine, and bottles and medical 
supplies from the shelves and cupboards fell to the ground. 
All this time I lay in complete darkness on the floor, with little 
hope of coming through it all safely. Now here’s the point — 
it led me back to prayer and to the Bible just like a child. More 
of that later when I see you. In more than one respect my 
confinement is acting like a wholesome though drastic cure. 
But I can only tell you the details when we meet again. . . . 
Roeder 1 was too sure he would get his own own way with 
me at first, and now he must content himself with a charge 
which is so utterly absurd, that it will reflect very little to his 
credit. 

in the last month or two I have learnt for the first time in 
my life how much comfort and help I get from others. . . . 
We often want to do everything ourselves, but that is a mark of 
false pride. Even what we owe to others belongs to ourselves, 
and is a part of our own lives. And when we want to calculate 
just how much we have learnt ourselves and how much we 
owe to others, it is not only un-Christian, but useless. What we 
are in ourselves, and what we owe to others makes us a com- 
plete whole. I wanted to tell you this because I’ve only just 
found it out, though not really for the first time, for we have 
realized it implicitly all through the years of our vita communis . 


Advent II 

I so much want to spend a quiet Sunday morning talking 
things over with you, that I am writing this letter, though 
I don’t know whether it will reach you, and if so, how or 
where. I wonder where we shall both be for Christmas, and 
what sort of a Christmas it will be. I hope you succeed in 
conveying something of its joy to your fellow-soldiers. 
For joy and contentment can be just as infectious as fear 
and panic. I am sure such a spirit can give us immense 
moral authority, provided we are not just showing off, but 
are quite genuine and sincere. Men need a fixed pole they can 
1 Legal adviser to the military authorities, and Chief Investigation Officer. 

[78 



THE OLD TESTAMENT 

look to for direction. I don’t think either of us are the sort that 
like showing off, though that has nothing to do with the 
courage which comes from the grace of God. 

My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and 
more like the Old Testament, and no wonder, I have been 
reading it much more than the New for the last few months. 
It is only when one knows the ineffability of the Name of God 
that one can utter the name of Jesus Christ. It is only when 
one loves life and the world so much that without them every- 
thing would be gone, that one can believe in the resurrection 
and a new world. It is only when one submits to the law that 
one can speak of grace, and only when one sees the anger and 
wrath of God hanging like grim realities over the head of 
one’s enemies that one can know something of what it means 
to love them and forgive them. I don’t think it is Christian to 
want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly. 
We have often talked about this before, and I am more than 
ever convinced that I am right. You cannot and must not 
speak the last word before you have spoken the next to last. 
We live on the next to last word, and believe on the last, 
don’t we? Lutherans (so-called) and pietists would be shocked 
at such an idea, but it is true all the same. In my Cost of Disciple- 
ship I just hinted at this (in Chap. I), but did not carry it any 
further. I must do so some day. The consequences are far- 
reaching, e.g. for the problem of Catholicism, for the doctrine 
of the ministry, for the use of the Bible, etc., and above all 
for ethics. Why is it that in the Old Testament men lie so 
frequently and on such a grand scale to the glory of God (I 
have collected together all the instances), that they commit 
murder, trickery, robbery, adultery and even whoredom (see 
the genealogy of Jesus), that they doubt, blaspheme and 
curse, whereas there is no sign of these things in the New 
Testament? It’s easy to say that the Old Testament represents 
an earlier stage of religious evolution, but that is too naive, 
for after all it is the same God in both Testaments. We shall 
have to talk about this further when we meet again! 

In the meantime evening has come. I was brought back just 
now from the guardroom to my abode by a corporal, who just 

79 ] 



A BROKEN DOWN NAZI 


as he left said to me with an embarrassed smile, but quite 
seriously, e Pray for us, Padre, that we may be spared an 
alarm to-night/ 

For some time I have been taking my daily exercise in the 
company of a fellow who has been a District Orator, Regional 
Leader, and a Government Director, as well as a former 
member of the Governing Body of the German-Christian 
Church in Brunswick, and is at present a leader of the party in 
Warsaw. He has gone completely to pieces here, and clings to 
me like a child, consulting me about the slightest trivialities, 
informing me each time he has cried, etc. After snubbing him 
for several weeks, I am now trying to administer a little com- 
fort, for which he is touchingly grateful, telling me again and 
again how glad he is to have met someone like me here. In 
short, one is confronted here with the strangest situations — if 
only I could tell you properly about them! 

I have been thinking over what I said in a recent letter about 
my own fear. I am inclined to think that in this matter we are 
all too prone to pretend to be honest and ‘natural’ over some- 
thing which is really a symptom of sin. In fact, it is just like 
talking openly about sex. It is not always ‘honest 5 to reveal 
secrets. It was God who made clothes for men, which means 
that in statu corruptionis there are many things in human life 
which ought to be kept covered over, and evil at any rate 
ought to be left concealed if it is too early to eradicate it. To 
uncover is the mark of cynicism, and when the cynic prides 
himself on his honesty and pretends to be an enthusiast for 
truth, he overlooks the really important point that since the 
fall reticence and secrecy are essential. In my opinion the 
greatness of Softer lies in his refusal to poke and pry into the 
insides of men, that he respects the need of reticence, and is 
content to observe men cautiously from the outside. He has 
no room for unhealthy curiosity. I remember Frau K. once 
'telling me how shocked she was at a slow motion film showing 
the growth of plant life. She and her husband both found it 
more than they could stand; they thought there was something 
indecent in prying like this into the secret of life. Stifter takes 
a very similar line. Yet may this not be dangerously akin to 

[80 



STIFTER AND RETICENCE 


what we in this country call ‘English hypocrisy 5 , which we 
contrast with ‘German honesty 5 ? I believe we Germans have 
never properly understood the meaning of reticence, and that 
means in the last resort that we have not understood the status 
corruptions of the world. Somewhere in his Anthropology 
Kant makes the shrewd observation that the man who ignores 
outward appearances and repudiates everything external is a 
traitor against humanity. 

By the way was it you who got hold of the Witiko which 
was brought to me on Friday? Who else could it have been? 
Although I think it is more painstaking than brilliant, much of 
it interests me a great deal. Many thanks. 

I have been writing an essay on ‘Speaking the Truth 5 . By 
that I mean saying what actually is, that is, shewing respect 
for secrecy, intimacy and concealment. ‘Betrayal 5 is not truth 
any more than flippancy, cynicism, etc. Secrecy may only be 
revealed in confession, that is, in the presence of God. More 
about that later too ! 

There are two ways of dealing with adversity. One way, the 
easier, is to ignore it altogether. I have got about as far as that. 
The other and more difficult way is to face up to it and triumph 
over it. I can’t manage that yet, but I must learn to do it, for 
the first way is really a slight, though I believe permissible, 
piece of self-deception. 


December 15th 1943 

When I read your letter yesterday I felt as though the 
sources of my intellectual life, which were beginning to dry up, 
had started to trickle again. No doubt that will strike you as 
exaggerated, though it’s perfectly true. For secluded as I am, 
I have no other alternative but to live wholly on the past. . . . 
My thoughts had grown rusty and tired during recent weeks, 
but now your letter has set them going again. After being so 
used to talking everything over with you, the sudden and pro- 
longed interruption means a profound change and a tremen- 
dous hardship. Now at last we are in communication again 

Roeder and Co. have smashed up so much china already that 

si] 



WHO AM I? 

we must not let them destroy our personal relationships* 
which are the most important things in our lives. . . . And 
now I am taking up your ‘fireside chat’, which gives me great 
pleasure. (Appropriately enough the electricity has just failed 
again, and I am sitting by candlelight). I can imagine us sitting 
together as we used to in the old days after supper (and after 
our regular evening’s work ) 1 upstairs in my room, smoking, 
occasionally strumming a tune on the piano and discussing the 
day’s events. I should have no end of questions to ask, about 
your training, about your journey to Karolus . 2 . . . And then 
at last I would start telling you that despite everything I have 
written so far, everything here is too awful for words. I should 
tell you how my grim experiences often follow me into the 
night, and the only way I can shake them off is by reciting one 
hymn after another, and that when I wake up it is generally 
with a sigh, rather than a hymn of praise. It is possible to get 
used to physical hardships, and to live for months out of the 
body so to speak — in fact it is almost too easy, but one can 
never get used to the psychological strain. On the contrary I 
feel somehow that everything I see and hear is putting years 
on me, and making life a loathsome burden. Perhaps you are 
surprised at my talking like this after all my letters. You 
wrote very nicely that ‘it was costing me no little effort’ to 
reassure you about my situation. I often ask myself who I 
really am. Am I the man who keeps squirming under these 
ghastly experiences in abysmal misery? Or am I the man who 
keeps scourging himself and outwardly pretends to others 
(and to himself as well) that he is a contented, cheerful easy- 
going fellow, and expects everyone to admire him for it? I 
mean, admire him for putting up this theatrical show, for that 
is what it really is. What does self-control really mean? In 
short I know less than ever about myself, and am getting 
more and more bored with psychology and fed up with 
introspective analysis. That is probably what has made Stifter 
such a help to me. There is something more at stake than self- 
knowledge. 

Then I would ask you whether you think that this trial, 
1 Listening to foreign broadcasts. 2 Karl Barth. 


[82 



BOOK ON ETHICS 


which has brought to light my connexion with the resistance 
group inside Canaris’s Security Branch (for I can hardly think 
that has remained a secret) will stop me from taking up my 
ministry again later on? These are things which at the moment 
I can only discuss with you, and perhaps we shall be able to 
talk about it together if you are given permission to see me. 
Please think it over and tell me the truth. 

... I often feel as though the best part of my life was already 
past, and that all I have to do now is to finish my Ethics . Yet 
you know, when I feel like this there comes over me an 
unimaginable longing"" not to quit this life without leaving 
some traces behind me, a wish that seems more redolent of the 
Old Testament than of the New. ... If only I could see you 
as a free man before you leave! But if it is now their intention 
to keep me here over Christmas, I shall face it my own way 
like a Christmas in the front line, so you needn’t worry about 
that. Great battles are easier to fight and less wearing than 
daily skirmishes. And I also hope you will manage to get a 
few days’ leave in February — I shall certainly be out of here by 
then. For in spite of all the nonsense they are charging me with 
they are bound to let me out when the time is up. 

I am re-writing my essay on ‘Speaking the Truth’, and trying 
to draw a sharp contrast between confidence, loyalty and 
secrecy on the one hand and the cynical conception of truth, 
for which all these obligations do not exist, on the other. 
Lying is destructive and inimical to reality as it is in God. The 
man who tells the truth out of cynicism is a liar. — By the way, 
it is remarkable how little I miss going to church. I wonder 
why. 

Your reference to the Biblical image of ‘eating the letter’ is 
very much to the point. — If you manage to get to Rome, do 
visit Sch. in the Propaganda Fide ! — Have you found the tone 
among the troops very bad, or do they show you some respect? 
Here in the guard room the men are certainly coarse, but not 
churlish. Some of the younger prisoners seem to have suffered 
so much under the strain of solitary confinement and the long 
evenings in the dark that they have completely gone to pieces. 
That is another idiotic thing, locking up these people here for 

83 ] 



THE WILL OF GOD? 

months on end with nothing to do.Itis demoralizing from every 
point of view. 


December 18th ig43 

You too must at least have a letter for Christmas. I have 
given up all hope of release. As far as I can see, I should have 

been set free on the 17th December, but the wanted to 

take the safest course, and now I shall probably sit here for 
weeks. The past weeks have been more of a strain than anything 
I have been through before. But it cannot be altered. It is 
always more difficult to adapt oneself to something which 
might have been altered than it is to the inevitable. But once 
facts have taken shape they must simply be accepted. What I 
am thinking of most to-day is that you too will soon be facing 
facts which will be really hard for you, probably harder than 
for me. I think we ought to do all in our power to alter these 
facts while there is still time, and then when all our efforts 
have proved fruitless it becomes much easier to endure them. 
Of course, not everything that happens is the will of God, yet 
in the last resort nothing happens without his will (Matthew 
10.29), i.e. through every event, however untoward, there is 
always a way through to God. When a man has entered upon 
a supremely happy marriage for which he thanks God, it is an 
awful blow to discover that the same God now demands a 
period of such great privation. In my experience nothing tor- 
tures us so much as longing. There are many who have been 
shaken up so violently from the earliest days of their youth, 
that they are unable to put up with a protracted period of ten- 
sion, and therefore contrive for themselves substitute pleasures 
which though short-lived offer readier satisfaction. That is the 
fate of the proletarian classes and the ruin of all intellectual 
fertility. It is not true to say that it is good for man to have 
gone through hard times in his early life. In most cases it is his 
downfall. True, it hardens them more for times like ours, but 
it also makes them infinitely less sensitive. When we are 
forcibly separated from those we love, we simply cannot , like 
so many others, contrive for ourselves some cheap substitute 

[84 



SEPARATION 


elsewhere. — I don’t mean because of moral considerations, 
but because we are what we are. We find the very idea of 
substitutes repulsive. All we can do is to wait patiently; we 
must suffer the unutterable agony of separation, and feel the 
longing until it makes us sick. For that is the only way in which 
we can preserve our relationship with our loved ones unim- 
paired. There have been a few occasions in my life when I 
have had to learn what homesickness means. There is no 
agony worse than this, and during these months in prison I 
have sometimes been terribly homesick. And as I am sure you 
will have to go through the same agony during these coming 
months, I wanted to tell you what I had learnt from it in case 
it may be of some help to you. The first and invariable effect 
of such longing is an itching desire to abandon the daily 
routine, with the result that our lives become disordered. I 
used to be tempted sometimes to stay in bed after six in the 
morning, which would have been perfectly possible, and to 
sleep on. Up to now I have never succumbed to that tempta- 
tion. I realized that that would have been the first stage of 
capitulation, and no doubt worse would have followed. A 
good piece of self-discipline is to do a daily dozen every morn- 
ing and have a cold wash down, which is a real support to one’s 
morale. There is nothing worse in such times than to try and 
find a substitute for the irreplaceable. It won’t succeed any- 
how, and can only lead to even greater indiscipline, for then 
the power to overcome tension, which can only come from 
looking the longing straight in the face, is used up, and 
endurance becomes even more intolerable. 

. . . Another point, I am sure it is best not to talk to strangers 
about our feelings; that only makes matters worse, though we 
should always be ready to listen to the troubles of others. 
Above all, we must never give way to self-pity. And on the 
Christian aspect of the matter, there are some lines which say: 

. . . that we remember , what we would fain forget. 

That this poor earth is not our home 

— a very important sentiment, though one which can only 

«5l 



SCHUTZ 



from the Augustinian O bone Jesu by Schiitz. Is not this phrase, 
with its combination of ecstatic longing and transparent devo- 
tion, suggestive of the restoration of all earthly desire? Restora- 
tion of course must not be confused with sublimation, for 
sublimation is crap£ (and pietistic?!), and restoration ‘spirit’, 
not in the sense of spiritualization, but as kocivt] ktiuis through 
the TrvsuiJLa ayiov, a new creation through the Holy Spirit. 
I believe that this point is also of great importance when we 
reply to those who ask us about their relation to their dead. ‘I 
bring all again’, that is we cannot and ought not to take them 
for ourselves, but allow Christ to give them back to us. By 
the way, at my funeral I should like the choir to sing: ‘One 
thing of the Lord I will require’, ‘Make haste, O God, to help 
me’ and ‘O bone Jesu \ 1 

At midday on Christmas Eve a dear old fellow is coming 
here at his own suggestion to play some carols on a comet. 
But some whose judgement I should rely on, say it only 
makes the prisoners unhappy and makes the day even harder for 
them to bear. ‘It demoralizes them’, said one, and I can well 
imagine it. In former years the prisoners used to start whistling 
and kicking up a row, no doubt to stop themselves from 
becoming sentimental. I am quite sure that in view of all the 
misery prevalent here it is no use giving them pretty-pretty, 
sentimental reminders of Christmas. It would be better if a 
good personal message or a sermon could be included in the 
programme. Without something of the kind music alone can 
be positively dangerous. Please don’t think I am frightened of 
it myself, but I am sorry for all these helpless young soldiers 
in their cells. Nothing can really be done to relieve the depres- 
sion here, and probably it is right that this should be so. I am 
giving a good deal of thought to a fundamental reform of the 
penal system, and hope to be able to offer some useful sugges- 
tions on the subject. 


1 All by Heinrich Schiitz. 


[88 



THE OTHER PRISONERS 


If this letter reaches you in time, please try to get me something 
good to read over the Christmas season. I asked for some books 
a little while ago, but they do not seem to be forthcoming. I 
don’t mind something exciting, if you like. And if you can 
lay your hands on Barth’s Doctrine of Predestination or his 
Doctrine of God, 1 include them too. The propagandist who 
accompanies me on my daily walks is getting more and more 
unendurable. Most people here do at least try to keep themselves 
under control, but this fellow is a complete wreck, and cuts a 
really sorry figure. I try to be as nice to him as possible, and 
talk to him like a child. Sometimes he can be almost funny. 
What pleases me more, however, is to hear that when I am 
up in the guardroom the word goes round the kitchen or the 
garden, and the prisoners working there try to come up on 
some pretext or other to chat with me. Of course it is not 
really allowed, but I was pleased to hear about it, and you will 
be too. Only don’t let it get around. — I shouldn’t be surprised 
if this isn’t the last uncensored letter I shall be able to write 
to you. 

Must close now. Read Proverbs 18.24, and don’t forget it. 


December 22nd 1943 

They seem to have made up their minds that I am not to 
be with you for Christmas, though nobody dares to tell me 
so. I wonder why. Do they think I am so easily upset? . . . 
The English have a very useful word for this sort of thing — 
they call it ‘tantalizing’ ... I do want you to realize that I 
believe my attitude towards my case ought to be one of faith, 
whereas I am letting it become too much a matter of calcula- 
tion and foresight. I am not really bothered about whether I 
shall be home for Christmas, for that is only a childish question. 
I am sure I could renounce that, if only I could do so in faith, 
knowing that it is inevitable. I can bear all things in faith (I 
hope so, anyhow), even my condemnation, and even the 

1 Church Dogmatics, Vol. II, Parts 1 and 2. These were banned in 
Germany at the time, and had to he sent from Switzerland without tide 
or cover. 

89] 



LOOKING BACK 


other consequences I fear (see Psalm 18.30): but anxious 
calculation wears one down. Don’t worry if something worse 
befalls me [removal to a concentration camp]. Several of the 
other brethren have already been through that. But this shilly- 
shallying, this continual consultation without action, this 
refusal to face up to risks is positively dangerous. I must be 
able to know for certain that I am in the hands of God, and 
not in men’s. Then everything can be easy, even the severest 
privations. There is no question of my being ‘understandably 
impatient’, as people are probably saying of me: what matters 
is that I should face everything in faith. . . . 

You ought to know that I have not for a moment regretted 
coming home in 1939. 1 I knew quite well what I was about, 
and acted with a clear conscience. I have no desire to cross 
out of my life anything that has happened since, either 
in the world at large, or to me personally (Sigurdshof, East 
Prussia, Ettal, my illness, and all the help you gave me then, 
the time in Berlin, and my present confinement). And I regard 
my sitting here (do you remember how I prophesied last 
March what the coining year would bring?) as my own part 
in the fate of Germany. I look back on the past without any 
self-reproach, and accept the present in the same spirit. But I 
don’t want to be unsettled by the machinations of men. We 
can only live in faith and assurance, you out there at the front, 
and I in my cell. — I have just come across this in the Imitation 
of Christ: Custodi diligenter cellam tuam , et custodiet te (‘Look 
after your cell, and it will look after you’). May God keep the 
light of faith burning in our souls. 


Christmas Eve 1943 

It is half past nine in the evening; I have had a few lovely 
hours of peace and quiet, and have been happy to think that 
you two are able to spend this day together. 

One of my greatest joys this Christmas is that we were able 
to keep up the tradition of exchanging the daily texts for the 

1 From America just before tbe outbreak of war, despite tempting invita- 
tions from his American friends. 


[90 



THE MEANING OF SEPARATION 


ensuing year. I had already thought about it, and hoped we 
should manage it, though I was not at all sure whether we 
would. And now this little book, which has been such a great 
help to me in recent months, will be our constant companion 
in the New Year, and as we read it in the morning we shall 
think especially of one another. Many, many thanks. 

I wish I could say something to help you in the time of 
separation which lies immediately ahead. There is no need to 
speak about its difficulties, but as I have learnt something 
about it myself during the last nine months, having been 
separated during that time from all those I love, I should like 
to pass it on to you. 

In the first place nothing can fill the gap when we are away 
from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find 
anything. We must simply hold out and win through. That 
sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great 
consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds 
between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: he does 
not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with 
another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain. In the 
second place the dearer and richer our memories, the more 
difficult the separation. But gratitude converts the pangs of 
memory into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are not 
endured as a thorn in the flesh, but as a gift precious for its own 
sake. We must not wallow in our memories or surrender to 
them, just as we don’t gaze all the time at a valuable present, 
but get it out from time to time, and for the rest hide it away 
as a treasure we know is there all the time. Treated in this way, 
the past can give us lasting joy and inspiration. Thirdly, times of 
separation are not a total loss, nor are they completely unprofit- 
able for our companionship — at least there is no reason why 
they should be. In spite of all the difficulties they bring, they 
can be a wonderful means of strengthening and deepening 
fellowship. Fourthly, it has been borne in upon me here with 
peculiar force that a concrete situation can always be mastered, 
and that only fear and anxiety magnify them to an immeasur- 
able degree beforehand. From the moment we awake until we 
fall asleep we must commend our loved ones wholly and 

9i] 



FRIENDSHIP AND LONELINESS 


unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, transforming 
our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf. 

*Ti$ vain to fret and fear 
God will not therefore hear . 


Christmas Day 

. . . Once more all my marvellous Christmas presents are 
arranged on the edge of the tipped-up bed, and in front of me 
are the pictures which I enjoy so much. The memory of your 
visit gives me food for thought all the time. It was something 
I really couldn’t do without. My longing to have someone to 
talk to is far worse than physical hunger. ... A few pregnant 
remarks are enough to touch upon a wide range of questions 
and clear them up. This intimacy of ours took so many years 
to cultivate, not always without friction, and we must never 
lose it again. What a lot we touched on in that hour and a half, 
and how much we learnt from each other. I am so grateful to 
you for fixing up the meeting and bringing it off. . . . They 
have tried to do everything possible here to give me a pleasant 
Christmas, but I was glad to be alone again. I often wonder 
how I shall adapt myself to company again after this. You 
remember how I often used to retire to my room after some 
great celebration. Tm afraid I must have grown even worse, 
for despite all my privations I have come to love solitude. I 
enjoy a talk with one or two others, but I simply loathe any 
larger gathering, and anything in the nature of chatter or 
gossip I just cannot stand. . . . 


January 23rd 1944 

Since you left for the front on Jan. 9th my thoughts 
about you have taken a new shape. . . . That Sunday was just 
as bad a wrench for me as it was for you. It is a strange feeling 
to see a friend whose life has been bound up so intimately with 
your own for so many years going out to meet an unknown 

[92 



HELPLESSNESS 


future which you can do practically nothing about. It makes 
you feel so utterly helpless. There are however, it seems to 
me, two sides to this helplessness. It brings both anxiety and 
relief. For so long as we are able to influence another’s life, we 
can’t help wondering whether what we are doing for him is 
really for his best. But when every opportunity of interfering 
with his life is cut off at a blow, you cannot help feeling that 
however anxious you may be about him, his life has now been 
placed in better and more powerful hands than your own. Our 
greatest task during these coming weeks, and maybe months, 
will be to trust in these hands. Whatever weakness, self- 
reproach and guilt we contribute to these events, in the events 
themselves is God. If we survive all this we shall be able to see 
quite clearly that all has turned out for the best. The idea 
that we could have avoided many of life’s difficulties if 
we had taken things more quietly is one that cannot be taken 
seriously for a moment. As I look back on your past I am 
sure that everything has turned out for the best, and so we 
have every reason to hope that what is happening at the 
present can only be for the best too. To renounce a full life 
and all its joys in order to escape pain is neither Christian 
nor human. . . . 

The news of the Nettuno landing has just come in. Are you 
anywhere thereabouts? When things like this happen I see how 
hard it is for me to take things calmly: I can only do so at the 
cost of repeated effort. In any case self-possession is only a 
euphemism for indifference and indolence, so to that extent 
it is not exactly a respectable thing! I was reading some 
Lessing the other day, and came across this: T am too proud 
to consider myself unlucky. Just grind your teeth and let your 
canoe sail where the wind and the waves take it. Enough that 
I have no intention of upsetting it myself.’ Is such an attitude 
to be forbidden to the Christian? Is it, for example, better for 
him to be soft-hearted and to surrender prematurely? Is there 
not a kind of self-possession which proudly grinds its teeth, but 
is quite different from a dour, rigid, lifeless and unthinking 
submission to the inevitable? I am sure we honour God more 
if we gratefully accept the life he gives us with all its blessings, 

93 ] 



THE SPHERE OP FREEDOM 


loving it and drinking it to the full, grieving deeply and 
sincerely when we have belittled or thrown away any of the 
precious things of life (some people grumble at such behaviour 
and say it is bourgeois to be so weak and sensitive) than we 
do if we are insensitive towards the blessings of life, and there- 
fore equally insensitive towards pain. Job’s word, ‘The Lord 
hath given . . .’, etc., includes that rather than excludes it, as 
can be seen from the speeches he makes with so much gnash- 
ing of teeth, and from their justification by God (Chapter 
42.76?.) in face of the false, premature, pious submission of his 
friends. 

I am much impressed by your remarks about friendship in 
this connexion. As compared with marriage and the ties of 
kindred, friendship has no generally recognized rights, and is 
therefore wholly dependent on its own inherent quality. It is 
by no means easy to classify friendship sociologically. Perhaps 
it is a subheading of culture and education, and brother- 
hood a subheading of Church, and comradeship a subheading 
of labour and politics. Marriage, labour, the state and the 
Church all exist by divine decree. But what of culture and 
education? I don’t think they cstn be classified under labour, 
tempting though that may be from many points of view. 
They belong not to the sphere of obedience, but to that of 
freedom, which surrounds all three spheres of the divine 
decrees. The man who is ignorant of this sphere of freedom 
can be a good father, citizen and worker, and even a Christian, 
but hardly a complete man, and therefore hardly a good 
Christian in the widest sense of the term. Our Protestant (not 
Lutheran) Prussian world has been so dominated by the divine 
decrees, that it has allowed this sphere of freedom to be pushed 
into the background. It almost looks to-day as though the 
Church alone offers any prospect for the recovery of the sphere 
of freedom (art, education, friendship and play, ‘aesthetic 
existence’, as Kierkegaard called it). I am convinced of the 
truth of this, and it would help us to a new understanding of the 
Middle Ages. What man is there among us for instance who can 
give himself with an easy conscience to the cultivation of music, 
friendship, games or happiness? Surely not ethical man, but 

[94 



THE FREEDOM OF THE CHRISTIAN 


only the Christian. Just because friendship belongs to this 
sphere of freedom (the freedom of the Christian man?!) it 
must be confidently defended against all the disapproving 
frowns of moralism, though without claiming for it the 
necessitas of a divine decree, but only the necessitas of freedom! 
I believe that within the sphere of this freedom friendship is by 
far the rarest and most priceless treasure, for where else does 
it survive in this world of ours, dominated as it is by the three 
other decrees? It cannot be compared with the blessings of the 
decrees, for it is sui generis ; its relation to them is that of the 
cornflower to the cornfield. 

As regards what you said about Christ being afraid, it only 
comes out in prayer (as it does in the psalms). I have often 
wondered how the Evangelists came to record this prayer, 
which nobody can have heard. The suggestion that it must 
have been revealed by Jesus during the great forty days is only 
a subterfuge. Have you any explanation to offer? 

Your reference to Socrates’ remarks about culture and death 
may prove very valuable. I must give it further thought. The 
only thing I am clear about at the moment is that education 
which breaks down in face of danger is not education at 
all. A liberal education which will not enable us to face 
danger and death does not deserve the name. Education 
must be able to face death and danger — impavidum ferient 
ruinae , the ruins will strike the fearless man (Horace) — even if 
it cannot ‘conquer’ them; what does conquer mean? By finding 
forgiveness in judgement and joy in terror? We must discuss 
this further. 

What will happen to Rome? I can’t bear to think of its being 
destroyed. What a good thing we saw it in peacetime. 

I am still getting on all right, working and waiting. Nothing 
has happened to shake my optimism, and I hope it is the same 
with you too. Goodbye, may we meet again soon! 

If you happen to see the Laocoon again, see whether you do 
not think the head of the father provided the model for the 
later representations of Christ. Last time I saw this classical 
man of sorrows it impressed me deeply and kept me thinking 
for a long time. 

95 ] 



TROUBLE AND PRAYER 


I have had to take a new line with the companion of my 
daily walks. Although he has done his best to ingratiate him- 
self with me, he said something about the Jews the other day, 
which made me more offhanded and cool to him than I have 
ever been to anyone before, and I have also seen to it that he 
has been deprived of certain little comforts. Now he feels 
himself obliged to go round whimpering for a while, but I 
haven’t a scrap of pity for him. He is really a sorry figure, but 
certainly not poor Lazarus! 


January 29th and 30th 1944 

. . . and as I find it hard not to write to you, I am using 
this quiet Saturday afternoon, so different from the noise we 
have had these last two nights. I wonder how you have taken 
your baptism of fire, and your first encounter with our Anglo- 
Saxon opponents, whom we have met hitherto only in time 
of peace. 

When I think of you every morning and evening I cannot 
get out of my mind all your cares and anxieties, instead of 
praying for you as I ought. That reminds me, I want to talk 
to you some day about prayer in time of trouble. It is a 
difficult matter, though our misgivings about it can hardly 
be good. In Psalm 50 we are told quite clearly: ‘Call upon me 
in the time of trouble: so will I hear thee and thou shalt praise 
me.’ The history of the children of Israel is one long story of 
such cries for help. And I must say, the experiences of the last 
two nights have reopened the problem for me in quite an 
elementary way. While the bombs are falling all round the 
building, I cannot help thinking of the divine judgement, of 
the outstretched arm of his wrath (Isaiah 5.25; 9.11-10.4), and 
of my own unpreparedness. It makes me feel how men can 
make vows, and then I think of you all and say, better me 
than one of them, and that reminds me how deeply I am 
attached to you. I won’t say any more about it for the moment, 
for it’s something that can only be discussed by word of 
mouth. But when all’s said and done, it is true that it needs 
trouble to drive us to prayer, though every time I feel it is 

[96 



DEATH OF A FRIEND 


something to be ashamed of. Perhaps that is because up to now 
I have not had a chance of putting in a Christian word at such 
a moment. As we were all lying on the floor yesterday, some- 
one muttered c O God, O God’ — he is normally a frivolous sort 
of chap — but I couldn’t bring myself to offer him any Christian 
encouragement or comfort. All I did was to glance at my 
watch and say: ‘It won’t last any more than ten minutes now/ 
There was nothing premeditated about it; it came quite 
automatically, though perhaps I had a feeling that it was 
wrong to force religion down his throat just then. Incidentally, 
Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the 
cross; he waited until one of them turned to him. 

I am sorry to say I suffered a sad loss the night before last. 
The most intelligent and to me the personally most attractive 
man here was killed in the city by a direct hit. I had intended 
to introduce him to you on some future occasion, and we had 
already planned to do things together in the future. We had 
a good many talks, and the other day he brought me Daumier 
and die Justiz , which I still have by me. He was a really educated 
man of working-class origin, a philosopher, and the father of 
three children. His death was an awful blow. 

During the last day or two I have resumed the work I told 
you about before. It is about the meeting of two old friends 
after they had been parted for several years during the war. 
I hope to send it to you soon. You needn’t worry, it won’t be 
a best-seller! 

In early days even one of our present problems would have 
been enough to take up all our time. Now we are required to 
bring to some common denominator such varied problems 
as war, marriage, the Church, profession, housing, the danger 
and death of our nearest and dearest, and as if all that were not 
enough, my imprisonment here. No doubt most people would 
regard these as quite separate problems, but for the Christian 
and the man of liberal education that is impossible: he cannot 
split up his life into water-tight compartments. The common 
denominator is to be sought both in thought and in practical 
living in an integrated attitude to life. The man who allows 
himself to be tom into fragments by events and problems has 

97 ] 



WHOLENESS 


not passed the test for the present an he future. It is related 
in the story of young Witiko how he set out on life with the 
intention of doing everything there was to be done. In other 
words, it is a question of the ocvOpcoiros teAeios (the primary 
meaning of teAeios is ‘whole’, ‘complete’) — ‘Ye therefore shall 
be perfect (teAeios), as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 
5.48), in contrast to the ccvrip Shpuxos the ‘double minded man’ 
of James 1.8. Witiko does everything there is to be done by 
adapting himself to the realities of life, by always listening to 
the advice of others more experienced than himself, thus show- 
ing himself a member of the ‘whole’. We can never achieve 
this wholeness on our own; it can only be acquired with the 
help of others. 

I have just started Hamack’s History of the Prussian Academy , 
and it’s first rate. I am sure he put his heart and soul into this 
book, and more than once he said he thought it was the best 
book he had ever written. How are you? Do let me know. 
Strange to say, I am always pretty well. It makes a lot of 
difference to know I must not fall ill here under any circum- 
stances. I always find sufficient strength for concentrated read- 
ing, but not always for writing, though from time to time I 
can manage that quite well too. How I shall get used to living 
in company again I don’t know. 


February 1st 1944 

Carpe diem — which for me means that I seize every chance 
of sending you my best wishes. In the first place, I could write 
for a whole week without finishing everything I’ve got to tell 
you, and secondly one never knows how much longer it’s 
likely to last. . . . 

I daresay you have heard about the bad nights we have had 
just lately, especially on Jan. 30th. Those bombed out the 
previous night came to me next morning for a little comfort. 
I am afraid however I make a bad comforter: I can listen all 
right, but hardly ever find anything to say. But perhaps the 
way one asks about some things and is silent about others 
helps to suggest what really matters. But I am severe with 



REAL COMEORT 


some wrong-headed endeavours to explain away distress, for 
so far from being a comfort they are the exact opposite. And 
it does seem to me more important that we should really 
experience certain kinds of distress, rather than try to bottle it 
up or explain it away. I make no attempt to explain it, and 
I’m sure that is the right way to begin, though it is only a 
beginning, and I seldom seem to get beyond it. I am often 
inclined to think that real comfort must break in just as 
unexpectedly as the distress. But I grant you that may be a 
subterfuge. 

Something which puzzles me and seems to puzzle many 
others as well is, how quickly we forget about a night’s 
bombing. Even a few minutes after the all clear, everything 
we were thinking about while the raid was on seems to vanish 
into thin air. With Luther a flash of lightning was enough to 
alter the whole course of his life for years to come. What has 
happened to this kind of memory to-day? Does it not explain 
why we sit so lightly to the ties of love and marriage, of 
friendship and loyalty? Nothing holds us, nothing is firm. 
Everything is here to-day and gone to-morrow. Goodness, 
beauty and truth, however, and all great accomplishments 
need time, permanence and memory, or else they deteriorate. 
The man who has no urge to do his duty to the past and to 
shape the future is a man without a memory, and there seems 
to me no way of getting hold of such a person and bring- 
ing him to his senses. Every word, even if it impresses him 
for a moment, goes through one ear and out of the other. 
What is to be done about him? It is a tremendous pastoral 
problem, this. You put it very well in a recent letter of 
yours: people feel at home so quickly and so shamelessly! 
I am going to pinch that sentence from you and make use of 
it myself! . . . 

By the way have you noticed how difficult it is for the 
uneducated to make up their minds about things, and how 
they let themselves be influenced by the most trifling con- 
siderations? I think it is most extraordinary. The difference 
between thinking about things and about persons is something 
that has to be learnt, and many never learn it. . . . 

99 ] 



GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE 


February 2nd 1944 

Am I right in thinking you are stationed north of Rome? 
I do hope you will get a chance of having another look at the 
city. It must be tantalizing to be hanging about just in front 
of the gates, and not to be allowed to go in. There is little 
comfort in knowing you have seen it already. 

How much longer I must continue amusing myself in my 
present abode is no more certain now than it was eight weeks 
ago. I am using every day to do as much reading and work as 
possible, for what will happen afterwards is anybody’s guess. 
Unfortunately I am handicapped by the difficulty in getting 
hold of books, which upsets all my plans. My real ambition 
was to become thoroughly familiar with the nineteenth cen- 
tury in Germany. The biggest gap up to now is a working 
knowledge of Dilthey, but it does not seem to be possible to 
get hold of his books. And then there is another gap in my 
knowledge which is most painful, and that’s natural science, 
though there’s nothing to be done about it at this stage, I’m 
afraid. 

My present companion whom I have mentioned several 
times in my letters is getting worse and worse. He has two 
colleagues here, one of whom spends the whole day moaning 
and groaning, and the other literally messes his trousers every 
time the alarm goes, and last night even when the alert was 
sounded! When he whined about it to me yesterday I burst 
out laughing and gave him a piece of my mind. He then tried 
to tell me how wrong it was to make light of somebody else’s 
sufferings and to condemn him. That was really too much for 
me, and I told him in no uncertain terms what I thought of 
people who can be very hard on others and make grand 
speeches about living dangerously, etc., etc., and then crumple 
up themselves under the slightest test of endurance. It was 
downright disgraceful, I said, and I had no sympathy whatever 
with such behaviour. And I would have specimens like that 
thrown out of the party for making such fools of themselves. 
He was flabbergasted, and I daresay he thinks I’m a pretty 
doubtful sort of Christian after all that. Anyhow, his behaviour 

[xoo 



CHRISTIAN INTOLERANCE 


is becoming almost a byword here, and he can’t like that very 
much. I find it all very instructive, though it’s one of the 
most disgusting cases I’ve come across so far. I don’t believe 
I find it easy to despise anyone in real trouble, and I have made 
that perfectly clear, which no doubt made his hair stand on 
end; but I can only regard that as contemptible. There are lads 
here of 17 or 1 8 in much more dangerous places during the 
raids, whose behaviour is irreproachable, while these ... I 
had almost used a military expression which would have 
astounded you — go around whining. Really, it makes me sick. 
We all have our weak spots, I suppose. 

I hope you won’t think I have been too hard on him. But 
there’s a kind of weakness Christianity will not stand for, but 
which everyone seems to expect Christianity to tolerate. We 
must take care that the contours don’t get blurred. 

Yesterday S. brought me the big volume on Magdeburg 
Cathedral. I am quite thrilled with the sculptures, especially 
some of the wise virgins. The bliss on these very earthly, 
almost peasant-like faces is a joy to behold. You will of course 
know them well. 


February 12th 1944 

I was in bed for a few days with a touch of the ’flu, but 
I am up again, thank goodness. For I daresay I shall need 
all my wits about me for the next week or two. Meanwhile I 
shall get as much reading and writing done as I can. Heaven 
knows when I shall have another chance. 

Are you already enjoying a taste of spriiig? Here winter is 
only just beginning. In my dreams I live a good deal in nature, 
in the woods and meadows of Friedrichsbrunn or on the 
slopes — the slopes from which one can look beyond Treseburg 
to the Brocken. — I He on my back and watch the clouds sailing 
past on the breeze and listen to the murmur of the wood. 
What a profound effect such memories of childhood have on 
the human character. I cannot imagine myself ever having 
lived up in the mountains or by the sea; it just does not fit my 
nature. It is the hills of central Germany, the Harz Mountains, 
iox] 



SIMPLENESS AND SIMPLICITY 


the Thuringian forest, the Weserberge, which belong to me 
and have made me what I am. Of course there is a common- 
place Harz and a hikers’ Weserberge, just as there is a mundane 
and a Nietzschian Engadine, a romantic Rhineland, a Berliner’s 
Baltic and a pretty-pretty fisherman’s poverty and melancholy. 
So perhaps my midland hills are bourgeois, in the sense of 
what is natural, not too high, modest and self-satisfied, non- 
ideological, content with concrete realities, and above all not 
given to self-advertisement. It would be very tempting to 
pursue this sociological treatment of nature further some day. 
By the way, I can see now what Stifter means by distinguishing 
simpleness ( Einfalt ) and simplicity ( Einfachheit ). Stifter displays 
not simpleness but simplicity, just as the bourgeois is marked 
by simplicity. Simpleness is an aesthetic category, even in 
theology. Was not Winkelmann right when he spoke of the 
noble simpleness of classical art? Though that certainly does 
not apply to the Laocoon, ‘Still greatness’ I find very good. 
Simplicity is an ethical category. Simplicity is a quality which 
can be acquired, simpleness is innate. Simplicity may be 
acquired by education and may be cultivated, and indeed it is 
one of the essential objects of education and culture. Simpleness 
is a gift. The two things are related, it seems to me, much as 
purity and moderation. One can only be pure in relation to 
one’s origin or goal, i.e. in relation to baptism or to forgive- 
ness in the Eucharist. Like simpleness it is a category which 
denotes integrity. Once we have lost that purity — and we have 
all lost it — it can only be granted again in faith. But in our- 
selves, as living and growing persons, we can no longer be 
pure, but only moderate, and that is a proper and necessary 
object of education and culture. 

What do you think of the Italian landscape? Is there any 
Italian school of landscape painters, anything comparable to 
Thoma, or even Claude Lorrain, Ruysdael or Turner? Or is 
nature there so completely absorbed into art that it cannot be 
looked at for its own sake? All the good pictures I can think 
of are of city life; there seems to be nothing in the way of pure 
landscape. 


[l02 



GOSSIP 


February 13th 1944 

I often notice here, both in myself and in others, the 
difference between the urge to pass on gossip, the desire for 
conversation and the need of confession. The urge to retail 
gossip is no doubt very attractive in women, but I find it 
repugnant in men. Everybody here seems to gossip indiscrim- 
inately about his private affairs, no matter whether others 
show any interest or not, merely for the sake of hearing them- 
selves speak. It is an almost physical urge, but if you manage 
to suppress it for a few hours, you are afterwards glad you did 
not let yourself go. It often fills me with shame here to see 
how readily men demean themselves just for a bit of gossip, 
how they prate incessantly about their own private affairs to 
people who don’t deserve it, and who hardly even listen. And 
the strangest thing about it is that they have no regard what- 
ever for truth; all they want to do is to talk about themselves, 
whether what they say is true or not. The desire for a good 
conversation is a very different matter; there is something 
genuinely intellectual about that. Unfortunately there are few 
people here who are capable of carrying on a conversation 
beyond the range of immediate personal concern. Very 
different again is the need for confession. That, I am convinced, 
is a rarity here. For in the first place people here aren’t worried 
about sin, whether their own or anybody else’s. I daresay you 
have noticed in the prayers for prisoners I sent you how I soft- 
pedalled prayer for forgiveness. I thought it would be a mis- 
take, both pastorally, and because of hard facts, to be too 
rigid about it. We must talk about that some day. 


February 14th 1944 

It looks as if during the next week or so my fate will be 
decided one way or the other. I hope it will. If by any chance 
they should send me in Martin’s 1 direction (though I don’t 
much think they will) please don’t get upset. I am not in the 

1 He means the concentration camp at Dachau, where Martin NiemoHer 
was confined. 

T03] 



RESISTANCE AND SUBMISSION 


least bit worried, at any rate about my personal fate. So you 
mustn’t worry either. 


February 21st 1944 

... I am sorry to have to tell you that it does not look as 
though I shall be out of here before Easter now. 

... I am wondering whether my excessive scrupulousness, 
which you often used to shake your head about with amuse- 
ment (I am thinking of our travels!) is not really the other 
side of bourgeois existence. I mean, is it not a part of our 
faithlessness which hides below the surface all the time we are 
secure, but comes to the top in times of insecurity in the form 
of c dread’ (I don’t mean cowardice, which is something quite 
different: dread can be manifested in rash daring just as much 
as in cowardice), dread in the face of straightforward, simple 
duty, dread in having to make vital decisions. I have often 
wondered when it is that the moment comes for us to throw 
up the sponge and abandon our resistance to fate. Resistance 
and submission are both equally necessary at different times. 
Don Quixote is the symbol of resistance carried on to the 
point of folly, and similarly Michael Kohlhaas insisted on his 
rights until it became his own undoing. In both cases resistance 
in the end defeats its own object, and vanishes into illusion and 
fantasy. Sancho Panza is the type of complacent and sly 
accommodation to things as they are. I am sure we must rise 
to the great responsibilities which are peculiarly our own, and 
yet at the same time fulfil the commonplace tasks of daily 
life. We must sally forth to defy fate — I think the neuter 
gender of Schicksal (fate) is significant — with just as much 
resolution as we submit to it when the time comes. One can 
only speak of providence on the other side of this dialectical 
process. God encounters us not only as a Thou, but also dis- 
guised as an It; so in the last resort my question is how we are 
to find the Thou in this It (i.e. fate). In other words, how does 
fate become providence? It is impossible therefore to define 
the boundary between resistance and submission in the 
abstract. Faith demands this elasticity of behaviour. Only so 



EASTER IN ROME 


can we stand our ground in each situation as it comes along, 
and turn it to gain. 


February 23rd 1944 

If you manage to get to Rome during Holy Week, do try 
and get to the service at St. Peter’s on Maundy Thursday after- 
noon (it lasts roughly from two to six). It is really the service 
for Good Friday, since the Roman Church anticipates its 
feasts from noon on the day before. I seem to remember, 
though I am not quite certain, that there is also a big service 
on the Wednesday. On Maundy Thursday all the twelve 
candles on the altar are put out as a symbol of the flight of the 
disciples, until at last there is only one candle left burning in 
the middle (for Christ). After that comes the washing of the 
altar. Early on Easter Eve, shortly before 7 a.m. there is the 
blessing of the font (I have a vague memory that it is connected 
with the ordination of young priests). Then at 12 noon the 
great Easter Alleluia is sung, the organ peals forth again, the 
mass bells ring, and the pictures are unveiled. Strictly speaking 
this is the celebration of Easter. Somewhere in Rome I also 
saw a Greek Orthodox service, which impressed me very much 
— it’s more than twenty years ago ! The service on Easter Eve 
in the Lateran (it starts in the baptistry) is also very famous. If 
you happen to be on Monte Pincio towards sunset, do drop 
into the Church of Trinita del Monte, and see whether the 
nuns are singing just at that time. I once heard them, and was 
very much impressed. I believe it is even mentioned in 
Baedecker. 

I wonder if you are directly concerned with the fighting 
where you are? I suppose it’s mainly a question of air raids, 
as it is here. The increase of air activity during the last ten days 
or so, especially during daylight, rather suggests that the 
English are probing our air power as a prelude to invasion, 
and as a means of pinning down our forces inside Germany. 

The longer we are uprooted from professional activities and 
our private lives, the more it brings home to us how frag- 
mentary our lives are compared with those of our parents. 
105] 



FRAGMENTS OF CULTURE 


The portraits of the great savants in Harnack’s History of the 
Academy make me acutely aware of that, and almost reduce 
me to melancholy. What chance have any of us to-day of 
producing a real magnum opus ? How can we do all the research, 
the assimilation and sorting out of material which such a thing 
entails? Where to-day is that combination of fine carefreeness 
and large-scale planning that goes with such a life? I am quite 
sure that technicians and scientists, the only people who are 
still free to work, have nothing of the kind to show to-day. 
The ‘polymath 5 had already died out by the close of the 
eighteenth century, and in the following century intensive 
education replaced extensive, so that by the end of it the 
specialist had evolved. The consequence is that to-day 
everyone is a mere technician, even the artist (in music 
the ideal is good form, in painting and literature no more 
than extreme moderation). That means however that culture 
has become a torso. The important thing to-day however 
is that people should be able to discern from the fragment 
of our fife how the whole was arranged and planned, and of 
what material it consists. For there are some fragments which 
are only worth throwing into the dustbin, and even a decent 
hell is far too good for them. But there are other fragments 
whose importance lasts for centuries, because their completion 
can only be a matter for God, and therefore they are fragments 
which must be fragments. — I am thinking for example of the 
art of the fugue. If our life is but the remotest reflection of such 
a fragment, if in a short time we accumulate a wealth of 
themes and weld them together into a pleasing harmony and 
keep the great counterpoint going all through, so that, when 
it comes to an untimely conclusion, we can at least still sing 
the choral, Vor deinen Thron tret 5 ich allhier — then let us not 
bemoan the fragmentariness of our life, but rather rejoice in it. 
I can never get away from Jeremiah 45. I wonder if you still 
remember that Saturday evening in Finkenwald when I 
expounded it? Here too is a necessary fragment of life — ‘but 
thy life I will give unto thee for a prey. 5 . . . 

... I am glad to hear that you have found a tolerable com- 
panion, so different from what you usually get. If only I 

[106 



GREAT HOPES 


could be there instead! I wonder if we shall ever make it. 
Or shall we perhaps keep Easter here as in days of old? You 
see, Vm not giving up hope. And you must not, either. 


March 1st 1944 

What a wonderful day it will be when we can discuss all 
we have been through and learnt during a whole year. For 
myself at any rate this is one of the greatest hopes the immediate 
future holds. No doubt like me you find it hard to imagine 
that such a day will ever come. It is so hard to believe that 
there is any chance of our overcoming all the obstacles in our 
way, yet ‘that which tarries is all the sweeter when it comes’. 
And I must say, I am entering upon this new month with great 
hopes, and I think you must be too. I am redoubling my 
efforts to make the best use of my last weeks here. No doubt 
you too are learning lessons which will be of inestimable value 
for you all through your life. To be daily and hourly in 
danger, which is something we are nearly all having to go 
through just now, is a wonderful help in teaching us to use the 
present moment, to ‘buy up the time’. Sometimes I feel my 
life is lasting just so long as there is something for me to Hve 
and work for. 


March 9th 1944 

I have heard from you again to-day, and am glad 
to know that you are at least finding things tolerable. And 
although that is not much (for we expect life to be more than 
just tolerable), there’s some comfort in that, so long as we look 
upon our present condition as a kind of ‘intermediate state’. If 
only we knew how long this purgatory is likely to last! It 
seems now that I shall have to wait until May. Isn’t this 
dawdling scandalous? 

. . . Sepp 1 is home again. He has fought his way through 
with all his old resilience and defiance. 

1 Dr. Joseph Miiller of Munich, who had been acquitted, and whom B. 
wrongly supposed to have been released. 



HILARITAS 


I haven’t yet answered your remarks about Michelangelo, 
Burckhardt and hilaritas. What you say about Burckhardt’s 
theses is certainly iUuminating, but surely hilaritas means not 
only cheerfulness, in the classical sense of the word, such as we 
find in Raphael and Mozart. What about Walter von der 
Vogelweide, the Knight of Bamberg, Luther, Lessing, Rubens, 
Hugo Wolf and Karl Barth, to mention only a few? Surely 
they also have a kind of hilaritas , which might be described as 
confidence in their own work, a certain boldness and defiance 
of the world and of popular opinion, a steadfast certainty that 
what they are doing will benefit the world, even though it 
does not approve, a magnificent self-assurance. I grant you, 
Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and at a considerable remove, 
Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, are in quite a different class from 
the ones I have mentioned. There is something less evident, 
less definitive and conclusive about their work, less conviction, 
detachment and humour. All the same, I should not refuse 
them the word hilaritas in the sense I have described, as a 
necessary attribute of greatness. Here lies the limitation of 
Burckhardt, a Mmitation of which he was conscious. I have 
recently been studying the secularist movement of the thir- 
teenth century. It was stamped not by the Renaissance, but by 
the Middle Ages, and it arose no doubt from the struggle 
between the Empire and the Papacy. It comes out in Walther, 
in the Nibelungen, and in Parsifal. — What an astonishing 
tolerance Parsifal’s half-brother Feirefiz shews to the Moham- 
medans ! — in Naumburg and Magdeburg cathedrals. Its 
worldliness is not emancipated, but Christian, though anti- 
clerical. When did this worldliness, so different as it is from 
the Renaissance variety, come to an end? A trace of it seems to 
survive in Lessing, as compared with western Enlightenment, 
and in a different way in Goethe, then later in Stifter and Morike, 
to say nothing of* Claudius and Gotthelf, but there is nothing 
of it to be found in Schiller and the idealists. It would be worth 
while drawing up a good genealogy here. But that raises the 
problem of the value of classical antiquity. Is it still a relevant 
problem and a source of inspiration for us or not? The modern 
treatment of it under the heading 'City-state man’ is already 

[108 



INTERPRETATIONS OF HISTORY 

out of date. The classical treatment of it from the aesthetic 
point of view has but a limited appeal to-day, and is somewhat 
of a museum piece. The fundamental values of humanism, 
humanity, tolerance, tenderness and moderation are already 
apparent in Wolfram von Eschenbach and in the Knight of 
Bamberg, where they are present in the loveliest form, and 
more accessible and relevant to us than in classical antiquity 
itself. Does the interpretation of history which prevailed from 
Ranke to Delbriick as a continuity consisting of classical 
antiquity, the middle ages and the modem world really hold 
good? Or was Spengler right with his theory of cultural 
phases as self-contained cycles? The belief in historical con- 
tinuity really goes back to Hegel, who regards the historical 
process as culminating in the modem world, i.e. in his own 
philosophy. Thus despite Ranke's assertion that every moment 
of history is directly related to God (which might have sup- 
plied a corrective, though it failed to do so), the idea of history 
as a continuous development has its roots in idealism. Spengler’s 
morphology is biological, and that is its particular limitation — 
what does he mean by the senescence and decline of a culture? 
It means, however, that we cannot accept the classics as the 
basis of education, as the idealists did, nor can we eHminate 
classical antiquity from our phase of civilization biologically 
and morphologically, like Spengler. Until further light has 
been thrown on the whole subject, the best thing to do is to 
base our attitude to the past solely on the facts and achieve- 
ments of any given period, and not on some abstract philosophy 
of history. I am afraid I have always felt cool towards the 
Renaissance and classicism; they both seem so remote, and I 
cannot make them my own. I wonder whether knowledge of 
other countries and an intimate contact with them is not a 
more important element for education to-day than a know- 
ledge of the classics? Of course, in both cases there is a danger 
of parochialism. Yet it is perhaps one of the most important 
things we have to do, to see that our contacts with other 
nations are not confined to politics and commerce, but 
are really productive of cultural enrichment. In this way 
we should be tapping an hitherto unused source for the 
109] 



SUPERSTITION 


fertilizing of our culture, and at the same time carrying on an 
old European tradition. 

The wireless has just announced the approach of strong con- 
tingent s of enemy aircraft. We saw quite a lot of the last two 
d aylight raids on Berlin; we could see considerable formations 
flying through a cloudless sky and leaving behind them a trail 
of condensation. At times there was a considerable amount of 
ack-ack too. The alarm was on for two and a half hours yester- 
day, longer than any of the night raids. To-day the sky is 
overcast. . . . The siren is just going, so I must break off and 
write again later. — It lasted two hours. Bombs were dropped 
in all parts of the city 5 , says the wireless. For two months here 
I have been trying to observe how far people still have any 
belief in transcendent reality. Three notions seems to be quite 
common, i. People say ‘Cross fingers’, apparently attaching 
some sort of power to the accompanying thought. They don’t 
want to feel alone in the hour of danger, and want to be sure 
of some invisible presence. 2. ‘Touch wood’ is the universal 
exclamation when the prospect of a raid the next night is being 
discussed. This seems to be a recollection of the wrath of God 
on the hyhris of man, in other words a metaphysical, and not 
merely a moral ground for humility. 3. ‘You can t run away 
from fate’, and as a corollary, everyone ought to stay where 
he is put. On a Christian interpretation these three points 
might be regarded as a recollection of intercessory prayer and 
the Church, of the wrath and grace of God and of divine 
providence. To the last we might add another phrase frequently 
heard here; ‘All these things are sent to try us.’ There does not 
seem to be any trace of a recollection of eschatology. Perhaps 
you have observed something different where you are? 

This is my second passiontide here. People sometimes sug- 
gest in their letters that I am suffering here. Personally, I shrink 
from such a thought, for it seems a profanation of that word. 
These things mustn’t be dramatized. I should not be at all sur- 
prised if you, and indeed almost everyone else now-a-days, 
are suffering more than I am. Of course, there’s a good deal 
here that’s appalling, but isn’t it the same everywhere? Perhaps 
we have tended to exaggerate the whole question of suffering, 

[no 



SUFFERING 


and have been too solemn about it. I have often wondered 
before now why it is that Catholics take such little notice of 
this sort of thing. Is it because they are stronger than we are? 
Perhaps they know from their own history better than we do 
what real suffering and martyrdom are, and therefore they 
pass over petty inconveniences and obstacles in silence. I 
believe for instance that all real suffering contains an element 
of physical pain. We are always too much inclined to empha- 
size the sufferings of the soul. Yet that is just what Christ is 
supposed to have removed from us, and I cannot find anything 
in the New Testament about it, or in the acts of the early 
martyrs. There is all the difference in the world between the 
Church's own sufferings and the untoward experiences of one 
of her servants. I am sure we need a good deal of correction 
on this point. Frankly speaking, I sometimes feel almost 
ashamed to think how much we have talked about our own 
sufferings. Indeed, real suffering must be quite a different 
matter and have a quite different dimension, from anything 
I have experienced hitherto. Enough for to-day. When 
shall we be able to talk together again? Take care of yourself, 
and make the most of the beautiful country you are in. Spread 
hilaritas around you, and mind you keep it yourself! 


March 19th 1944 

With the news of the heavy fighting in your neighbour- 
hood you are hardly ever out of my thoughts. Every word I 
read in the Bible and the hymns I apply to you. You . . . must 
be feeling very homesick during these dangerous days, and 
every letter will only make it worse. But surely, it is the mark 
of a grown-up man, as compared with a callow youth, that he 
finds his centre of gravity wherever he happens to be at the 
moment, and however much he longs for the object of his 
desire, it cannot prevent him from staying at his post and 
doing his duty? The adolescent is never quite ‘all there': if he 
were, he wouldn't be an adolescent, but a dullard. There is a 
wholeness about the fully grown man which makes him con- 
centrate on the present moment. He may have unsatisfied 
in] 



DESIRES 


desires, but he always keeps them out of sight, and manages to 
master them some way or other. And the more need he has 
of self-mastery, the more confidence he will inspire among his 
comrades, especially the younger ones, who are still on the 
road he has already travelled. Clinging too much to our desires 
easily prevents us from being what we ought to be and can 
be. Desires repeatedly mastered for the sake of present duty 
make us, conversely, all the richer. To be without desire is a 
mark of poverty. At the moment I am surrounded by people 
who cling to their desires, so much so that they haven’t any 
interest for others: they give up listening, and are incapable of 
loving their neighbour. I think we should live even in this 
place as though we had no desires and no future to hope for, 
and just be our true selves. It is remarkable what an influence 
one acquires in this way over other men. They come and con- 
fide in us, and let us speak to them. I am writing to you 
about this because I think there is a lot for you to do too 
just now, and later on you will be glad to think that you have 
done your best. When we know that a friend is in danger, we 
somehow want to be assured that he is being his true self. We 
can have a full life even when we haven’t got everything we 
want — that is what I am really trying to say. Forgive me for 
troubling you with my thoughts, but thinking is my chief 
amusement here. I’m sure you’ll understand, I ought to add, 
by the way, that I am more convinced than ever that it won’t 
be long before our wishes are fulfilled, and there’s no need for 
us to resign ourselves to the worst. 

... I am going through another spell of finding it difficult 
to read the Bible. I never know quite what to make of it. I 
don’t feel guilty at all about it, and I know it won’t be long 
before I return to it again with renewed zest. Is it just a psycho- 
logical process? I am almost inclined to think so. Do you 
remember how we often used to find it like that when we 
were together? True, there is always a danger of indolence, 
but it would be wrong to get fussed about it. Far better to 
trust that after wobbling a bit the compass will come to rest in 
the right direction. Don’t you agree? . . . It’s almost a year since 
we spent those last days working together. ... I wish I knew 

[lI2 



BAPTISM 


what the future has in store for us. I wonder if we shall be 
together again, perhaps in some work — or must we be content 
with the past? 


March 24th 1944 

I daresay you are thinking a great deal about the baby’s 
christening. My chief reason for writing is a feeling that you 
must be depressed by the apparent illogicality of it all. We 
often used to say that children ought to be baptized at the 
earliest possible moment, even when the father cannot be 
present. The reasons for this are clear enough. Yet I cannot but 
think you are right to wait. For though I still think an early 
baptism is a good thing, and very desirable (especially as an 
example to the parish, provided you do it with a sincere faith 
in the efficacy of the sacrament), there is something to be said 
for the father waiting until he can be present at the service and 
take part in the prayers for his child. And when I examine my 
own feelings on the subject, I must confess I am chiefly influ- 
enced by the consideration that God loves the unbaptized 
child who is intended for baptism. The New Testament lays 
down no law about infant baptism, and it is in fact a gift of 
grace which has been granted to the Church. Hence it can be a 
striking testimony of faith for the parish. But to force oneself 
to proceed with it without feeling the compulsion of faith is 
certainly not biblical. Regarded purely as a demonstration, 
infant baptism cannot be justified. God will undoubtedly hear 
our prayers for the child when we ask him to send the day 
soon when we can bring him to the font. So long as there is 
every prospect of this day coming soon, I cannot believe that 
God is particularly concerned about the exact date. Hence we 
can trust in a merciful providence and wait until we can do 
with sincerity what for the moment we should feel an oppres- 
sive burden. ... So I should wait a little while without any 
scruples, in the hope that we shall see our way more clearly 
later. I am sure it will be better for the actual baptism: it will 
make the whole thing more sincere, which is a much more 
important consideration than the outward performance of the 
rite. 

113] 



HUMAN NATURE 


... You are getting to know my favourite country far 
better than I know it myself. How I should love to sit with 
you in the car and see the Cecilia Metella or Hadrian’s Villa. I 
have never been able to make much of the Pieta. 1 You must 
explain to me some time what it is you like about it so much. 


March 23th ig44 

We had a very lively time last night. The view from the 
roof here over the city was staggering. I still haven’t heard 
anything about the rest of the family. My parents left for P. 
yesterday, thank God, but there wasn’t much doing in the 
west. It is absurd how one can’t help hoping when an air raid 
is announced, that it will be the turn of other places this time. 
The principle is the same as that of ‘Holy St. Florian, spare my 
house, and set others on fire’. ‘Perhaps they won’t get any 
further than Magdeburg or Stettin this time’ — how often have 
I heard that pious wish! Such moments bring home to one the 
corruption of human nature and the truth of original sin, and 
to that extent it is probably a salutary experience. Incidentally, 
there has been a noticeable increase in air activity during the 
last day or two, and it makes one wonder whether it is not 
meant as a makeshift substitute for the long heralded invasion. 

I shall not be able to make any plans for the future until 
May. I am gradually losing faith in all these forecasts, and 
have ceased to take any notice of them. Quite likely they will 
be telling me then that it may be July. In any case, my own 
personal future is of secondary importance compared with the 
general situation, though the two things are very closely con- 
nected. So I hope we shall still have a chance of discussing our 
plans for the future. . . . 

I am still all right here. Somehow I seem to have become 
part of the furniture, and I get less peace and quietness than I 
should like. You are quite right about the rarity of landscape 
painting in Southern Europe. Is the south of France an excep- 
tion? What about Claude Lorrain? Yet it seems to flourish in 
Germany and England. I suppose the southerner has the 
1 By Michelangelo, in St. Peters. 



LANDSCAPE PAINTING 


beauties of nature to enjoy, while for us they are so rare that 
they induce a wistful longing for them. By the way, to change 
the subject, Morike once said that 'where beauty is, there is 
happiness as welT. Does that not fit in with Burckhardt? It is all 
too easy for us to acquiesce in Nietzsche’s crude alternatives of 
'Apolline’ and 'Dionysian’, or as we should say to-day, 
demonic beauty. Nothing could be further from the truth. 
Take for example Brueghel or Velasquez, or Hans Thoma, 
Leopold von Kalkreuth, or the French impressionists. Here we 
have a beauty which is neither classical nor demonic, but is 
simply earthly, though it has its own proper place. For my 
part, I must confess this is the only kind of beauty that appeals 
to me. I would also add the Magdeburg virgins I mentioned 
the other day. This rather suggests that the Faustian interpre- 
tation of Gothic art. is altogether on the wrong lines. How 
else can we explain the remarkable contrast between the 
plastic arts and architecture? . . . 

Must close for to-day, otherwise you’ll never get through 
this letter. I am so glad to think of how you played Lobe den 
Herrn that time. It did us all a lot of good! 


March 2jth 1944 

Perhaps I ought to send you my good wishes for Easter 
already, for I have no notion how long my letters take to 
reach you. In looking through Das Neue Lied during these 
days, I am constantly reminded how it is to you principally 
that I owe my enjoyment of the Easter hymns. It’s a year now 
since I actually heard a hymn. But the music of the inward ear 
can often surpass that which we hear physically, so long as 
we really concentrate. Isn’t that remarkable? Indeed, there is 
something purer about it, and in a way music acquires thereby 
a 'new body’ ! There are only a few pieces I know well enough 
to be able always to hear them inwardly, but I get on par- 
ticularly well with the Easter hymns. My appreciation of the 
music Beethoven composed after he went deaf has become 
more 'existential’, and in particular, the great variation from 
Opus III: 



DEATH AND RESURRECTION 



By the way, I heard the Sunday concert from 6-7 p.m. the 
other day, though it was on an atrocious wireless set. 

Speaking of Easter, do we not attach more importance now- 
adays to the act of dying than to death itself? We are much 
more concerned with getting over the act of dying than with 
being victorious over death. Socrates mastered the art of 
dying; Christ overcame death as the eoxprrog syOpos, the last 
enemy (1 Corinthians 15.27). There is a real difference between 
the two things. The one is within human capacity, the other 
implies resurrection. We need not ars moriendi , the art of 
dying, but the resurrection of Christ to invigorate and cleanse 
the world to-day. Here is the answer to 60s M-oi ttou otco kocI 
Kivfjcrco tt]v yrjv, give me where I stand and I will move the 
earth. What a tremendous difference it would make if a few 
people really believed and acted upon that. To live in the light 
of the resurrection — that is the meaning of Easter. Do you not 
also find that so few people seem to know what light it is they 
live by? This perturbatio animorum is exceedingly common. It is 
an unconscious waiting for the word of deliverance, though the 
time is hardly ripe yet for it to be heard. But the time will 
come, and perhaps this Easter is one of the last chances we shall 
have to prepare ourselves for our future task. I hope you wall 
be able to enjoy it despite all the hardships you are having to 
bear. Good-bye, I must close now. 

April 2nd 1944 

Now that Easter will apparently come and go without our 
being at home and meeting again, I am putting off hope until 
Whitsun at the latest. What do you think about it? You must 
be having a glorious spring. Just imagine, I have taken up 
graphology again, and am just working through Ludwig 
Klages’ book. I’m not going to try it out on my friends and 
relations. There are others here who seem to be interested in 

[116 



GRAPHOLOGY 


it too. I am convinced there is something in it. No doubt you 
remember how successful I was at it in my student days, so 
much so that it became embarrassing, and I gave it up. But I 
think I have got over the dangers of psychology by now, and 
I am very interested in it again. I wish I could discuss it with 
you. If it gets uncanny again, I shall drop it at once. There are 
two requirements, sensitivity and an acute power of observa- 
tion, the second of which you possess to a much greater degree 
than I. If you like I will write you further on the subject. 

In Karl Kindt’s 8oo-page biography of Klopstock I found 
some very striking extracts from the latter’s play, Der Tod 
Adams, which is about the death of the first man. The ode is 
interesting enough, and the actual play is just terrific. I had 
often thought of trying to rehabilitate Klopstock, so I find the 
book very interesting. 

I have here quite a detailed map of the environs of Rome, 
and I often look at it when thinking of you, and imagine you 
going round the streets, so familiar to you from long acquaint- 
ance, hearing the sounds of war not so very far away, and 
surveying the Mediterranean from the mountains. . . . 


April nth 1944 

I really wanted to write to you over the Easter season, but 
I had so many well-meaning visitors that I had less peace and 
quiet than I could have desired. ... I have become so inured 
to quietness and solitude that after a short time I long for it 
again. I cannot imagine myself spending the day as I used to 
with you, or as you do now. ... I certainly would like to have 
a good talk with someone, but senseless gossip gets on my 
nerves terribly. 

I wonder how you have been spending Easter. Were you in 
Rome? And have you got over your homesickness? I can well 
imagine you find it harder than I do. For it cannot be got over 
without diversion and distraction. It takes a terrific amount of 
effort and one needs a good deal of time to oneself. I find these 
first warm days of spring rather trying, and no doubt you do 
too. Nature is rediscovering herself, but the tensions in our 
117] 



TENSIONS 


own lives arid in the society we live in are just as bad as before, 
and the discord between them is particularly acute. Or perhaps 
it is just homesickness, and it is good for us to feel it acutely 
again. As far as my own life is concerned, I must say I have 
plenty to aim at, to do and to hope for to keep me fully 
absorbed, yet without wanting anything for myself. And 
perhaps that has made me old before my time. It has made 
everything so prosaic and matter of fact. How few there are 
who can still indulge some strong personal feeling, who make 
a real effort and spend all their strength in enduring their 
longing, assimilating it and turning it to gain in their lives! 
Those sentimental radio ‘hits’ with their artificial naivete 
and their barren crudities are the lamentable remains and the 
maximum of what people will tolerate in the way of spiritual 
effort. It is a sad desolation and impoverishment. Let us by 
contrast rejoice when something affects us deeply, and regard 
the accompanying pains as an enrichment of soul. High ten- 
sions produce big sparks — is that not a physical fact? If I’m 
wrong translate it into the appropriate jargon. I have long had 
a special affection for the season between Easter and Ascension 
Day. Here is another great tension. How can men endure 
earthly tensions if they know nothing of the tension between 
earth and heaven? Have you by any chance got a copy of Das 
Neue Lied with you? I have vivid memories of learning the 
Ascensiontide hymns with you, especially Auf diesen Tag 
bedenken wir , which is still one of my favourites. By the way, 
to-day we are entering on the tenth year of our friendship, a 
large slice in a man’s life. And we have shared everything as 
intensely during the last year as we did during the former 
years when we were together. 

... I can’t help feeling that when we do get home again, it 
will be together. I have been told I ought not to look for any 
change in my position in the immediate future — and that after 
all the promises they made every fortnight. I don’t think it’s 
either right or clever of them, and I have my own ideas on 
the subject, which I should very much like to tell you of. 
But as I can’t get my own way, I must just make the best of 
it, and continue to hope for Whitsun. 


[118 



CONTINUITY 


Yesterday I heard someone say he felt that the last years 
had been completely wasted as far as he was concerned. I have 
never felt like that, not even for a moment. Nor have I ever 
regretted my decision in the summer of 1939, 1 and strange as it 
may seem, I am convinced that my life has followed a straight 
and even course, at any rate so far as its outward circum- 
stances are concerned. It has been an uninterrupted enrichment 
of my experience, for which I can only be thankful. If I should 
end my days here like this, that would have a meaning I could 
understand. On the other hand my time here maybe a thorough 
preparation for a fresh start, for a new job of work when 
peace comes again. ... I will close now for to-day, for I have 
another graphological analysis to do. That’s how I while away 
the time when I cannot do any serious work. I’m afraid this 
letter is a bit disjointed owing to repeated interruptions while 
I was writing it. 


April 22nd 1944 

You say my time here will be very important for my 
work, and that you’re looking forward to what I shall have 
to tell you later, and to read what I have produced so far. — 
Well, you mustn’t expect too much: I have certainly learnt a 
great deal, but I don’t think I have changed very much. There 
are some who change a lot, but many hardly change at all. I 
don’t believe I have ever changed very much, except at two 
periods in my life, the first under the first conscious impact of 
Papa’s personality, and the second when I was abroad. I think 
you are very much the same. Self-development is of course an 
entirely different matter. Neither of us has had any sudden 
break in our lives. Of course we have deliberately broken with 
a great deal, but that again is an entirely different matter. Our 
present experiences hardly represent a real break in the passive 
sense. In the old days I often used to long for such a break, 
but I think quite differently about it to-day. Continuity with 
our past is a wonderful gift. St. Paul wrote II Timothy 1.3 a as 
well as I Timothy 1.13 ! I often marvel how little I worry over 
1 To return from the U.S.A. to Germany. 



LOVING OUR NEIGHBOURS 

past mistakes compared with most of the others here. It never 
occurs to me how different everything would be to-day if 
only I had acted differently in the past. I can’t help feeling that 
every tiling has taken its natural course; it has all been inevitable, 
straightforward, directed by a higher providence. Don’t you 
feel the same? 

Just lately I have been wondering why we grow insensitive 
to hardships in course of time. When I think how I felt a year 
ago it strikes me very much. To put it down to nature’s self- 
protection isn’t the whole story. There’s more to it than that. 
We come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own 
hmitations and responsibilities, and that makes it possible for 
us genuinely to love our neighbours. So long as we are suffering 
from an exaggerated sense of our own importance we can never 
really love our neighbours: love of one’s neighbour remains 
something vague and abstract. To-day I am able to take a 
calmer view of other people, of their needs and requirements, 
and so I am able to help them more. I would prefer to speak 
of illumination rather than insensitiveness. But of course it is 
always up to us to change the one into the other. On the 
other hand, I am sure we ought not to reproach ourselves 
because our feelings grow cooler and calmer in the course of 
time, though we must always be alive to the danger of becom- 
ing blind to everything, and even when we have reached the 
stage of ihumination we must still keep a warm heart. Will 
these reflections be of any use to you? 

I wonder what makes some days seem more oppressive than 
others. Is it just a matter of growing pains, or is it spiritual 
trial? Once they are over the world looks quite a different 
place again. 

The other day I heard the angel scene from Palestrina on the 
wireless. It reminded me of Munich. Even then that was the 
only part that really impressed me. There’s a great Palestrina 
fan here who was perplexed at my lack of enthusiasm for him, 
and was quite thrilled when I said how I enjoyed the angel 
scene. 

For a long time I haven’t been able to get down to any 
serious work, but now with the approach of spring I’m feeling 

[l20 



PREPARED FOR THE WORST 

more in the mood for it again. I hope to say something about 
what I’m doing next time. Meanwhile take care of yourself 
and keep your end up. I hope that in spite of everything we 
shall be able to meet again soon. What a joy that will be! 


April 30th 1944 

Another month gone! Do you find time flies as I do here? 
It often amazes me — and when will the month come when we 
shall meet again? Such tremendous events are taking place in 
the world outside, events which will have a profound effect 
on the course of our lives. This makes me wish I could 
write to you more frequently, if partly because I don’t know 
how much longer I shall be able to, but above all because I 
want to make the most of what opportunities I have of sharing 
everything with you. I am firmly convinced that by the time 
you get this letter great decisions will have been reached on all 
fronts. During the coming weeks we shall have to be very 
brave: we must keep our wits about us and be prepared for the 
worst. I am reminded of the biblical Set, and I feel as curious 
as the angels in I Peter 1.12 as to how God intends to resolve 
these apparently insoluble issues. I am sure God is about to do 
something which we can only accept with wonder and 
amazement. We shall, if we have eyes to see, realize the truth 
of Psalm 58.12b and Psalm 9.2of. And we shall have to 
repeat Jeremiah 45.5 to ourselves every day. It is harder for 
you to go through all this alone than it is for me, so I will 
think of you especially, as indeed I am already doing now. 

How good it would be if we could go through this time 
together, standing side by side. But it is probably best for us 
to face it alone. I am so sorry I can’t help you at all, except by 
thinking of you as I read the Bible every morning and evening, 
and often during the day. You really must not worry about 
me, for I’m getting on uncommonly well, and you would be 
astonished if you came to see me. They keep on telling me 
that I am ‘radiating so much peace around me’, and that I am 
‘ever so cheerful’. Very flattering, no doubt, but I’m afraid I 
don’t always feel like that myself. You would be surprised and 
121] 



A TIME OF NO RELIGION 


perhaps disturbed if you knew how my ideas on theology are 
taking shape. This is where I miss you most of all, for there is 
no one else who could help me so much to clarify my own 
mind. The thing that keeps coming back to me is, what is 
Christianity, and indeed what is Christ, for us to-day? The 
time when men could be told everything by means of words, 
whether theological or simply pious, is over, and so is the time 
of inwardness and conscience, which is to say the time of 
religion as such. We are proceeding towards a time of no 
religion at all: men as they are now simply cannot be religious 
any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as 
‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so when they say 
‘religious’ they evidently mean something quite different. Our 
whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and 
theology rests upon the ‘religious premise’ of man. What we 
call Christianity has always been a pattern — perhaps a true 
pattern — of religion. But if one day it becomes apparent that 
this a priori ‘premise’ simply does not exist, but was an his- 
torical and temporary form of human self-expression, i.e. if 
we reach the stage of being radically without religion — and I 
think this is more or less the case already, else how is it, for 
instance, that this war, unlike any of those before it, is not 
calling forth any ‘religious’ reaction? — what does that mean 
for ‘Christianity’? 

It means that the linchpin is removed from the whole struc- 
ture of our Christianity to date, and the only people left for 
us to light on in the way of ‘religion’ are a few ‘last survivals 
of the age of chivalry’, or else one or two who are intellectually 
dishonest. Would they be the chosen few? Is it on this dubious 
group and none other that we are to pounce, in fervour, pique, 
or indignation, in order to sell them the goods we have to 
offer? Are we to fall upon one or two unhappy people in their 
weakest moment and force upon them a sort of religious 
coercion? 

If we do not want to do this, if we had finally to put down 
the western pattern of Christianity as a mere prehminary stage 
to doing without religion altogether, what situation would 
result for us, for the Church? How can Christ become the 

[122 



GOD WITHOUT RELIGION 


Lord even of those with no religion? If religion is no more 
than the garment of Christianity — and even that garment has 
had very different aspects at different periods — then what is a 
religionless Christianity? Barth, who is the only one to have 
started on this line of thought, has still not proceeded to its 
logical conclusion, but has arrived at a positivism of revelation 
which has nevertheless remained essentially a restoration. For 
the religionless working man, or indeed, man generally, 
nothing that makes any real difference is gained by that. The 
questions needing answers would surely be: What is the 
significance of a Church (church, parish, preaching, Christian 
life) in a religionless world? How do we speak of God with- 
out religion, i.e. without the temporally-influenced presup- 
positions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we 
speak (but perhaps we are no longer capable of speaking of 
such things as we used to) in secular fashion of God? In what 
way are we in a religionless and secular sense Christians, in 
what way are we the Ekklesia , ‘those who are called forth’, 
not conceiving of ourselves religiously as specially favoured, 
but as wholly belonging to the world? Then Christ is no longer 
an object of religion, but something quite different, indeed and 
in truth the Lord of the world. Yet what does that signify? 
What is the place of worship and prayer in an entire absence 
of religion? Does the secret discipline, or, as the case may be, 
the distinction (which you have met with me before) between 
penultimate and ultimate, at this point acquire fresh import- 
ance? I must break off for to-day, so that the letter can be 
posted straight away. In two days I will write to you further 
on the subject. I hope you have a rough idea what I’m getting 
at, and that it does not bore you. Good-bye for the present. It 
isn’t easy to keep writing without any echo from you. You 
must excuse me if that makes it rather a monologue! 

I find after all I can carry on writing. — The Pauline question 
whether circumcision is a condition of justification is to-day, 
I consider, the question whether religion is a condition of 
salvation. Freedom from circumcision is at the same time 
freedom from religion. I often ask myself why a Christian 
instinct frequently draws me more to the religionless than to 
123] 



TRUE TRANSCENDENCE 


the religious, by which I mean not with any intention of 
evangelizing them, but rather, I might almost say, in ‘brother- 
hood’. While I often shrink with religious people from speaking 
of God by name — because that Name somehow seems to me 
here not to ring true, and I strike myself as rather dishonest 
(it is especially bad when others start talking in religious 
jargon: then I dry up completely and feel somehow oppressed 
and ill at ease) — with people who have no religion I am able 
on occasion to speak of God quite openly and as it were natur- 
ally. Religious people speak of God when human perception is 
(often just from laziness) at an end, or human resources fail: it 
is really always the Deus ex tnachina they call to their aid, either 
for the so-called solving of insoluble problems or as support 
in human failure — always, that is to say, helping out human 
weakness or on the borders of human existence. Of necessity, 
that can only go on until men can, by their own strength, 
push those borders a little further, so that God becomes super- 
fluous as a Deus ex machina. I have come to be doubtful even 
about talking of ‘borders of human existence’. Is even death 
to-day, since men are scarcely afraid of it any more, and sin, 
which they scarcely understand any more, still a genuine 
borderline? It always seems to me that in talking thus we are 
only seeking frantically to make room for God. I should like 
to speak of God not on the borders of life but at its centre, not 
in weakness but in strength, not, therefore, in man’s suffering 
and death but in his life and prosperity. On the borders it 
seems to me better to hold our peace and leave the problem 
unsolved. Belief in the Resurrection is not the solution of the 
problem of death. The ‘beyond’ of God is not the beyond of 
our perceptive faculties. The transcendence of theory based on 
perception has nothing to do with the transcendence of God. 
God is the ‘beyond’ in the midst of our life. The Church 
stands not where human powers give out, on the borders, but 
in the centre of the village. That is the way it is in the Old 
Testament, and in this sense we still read the New Testament 
far too litde on the basis of the Old. The outward aspect of 
this religionless Christianity, the form it takes, is something to 
which I am giving much thought, and I shall be writing to 



BULTMANN S DEMYTHOLO GIZING 


you about it again soon. It may be that on us in particular, 
midway between East and West, there will fall an important 
responsibility. 

It would be grand to have a line from you on all this; indeed 
it would mean more to me than you can imagine, I’m sure. I 
suggest you should look at Proverbs 22.11, 12. There’s some- 
thing that will bar the way against any kind of pious escapism. 


May 3th 1944 

I imagine you must be on leave by now, and this letter 
will have to be sent on to you. Unfortunately that will mean 
it will be out of date by the time it reaches you, for life is so 
uncertain nowadays. Yet long experience suggests that every- 
thing remains as it is rather than suddenly changes, so I should 
like to write to you all the same. I’m getting along pretty well, 
and so is the case, though the date still hasn’t been fixed. But 
all good things take us by surprise when they do come, so I’m 
waiting confidently for that. 

A bit more about ‘religionlessness’. I expect you remember 
Bultmann’s paper on the demythologizing of the New Testa- 
ment? My view of it to-day would be not that he went too far, 
as most people seem to think, but that he did not go far 
enough. It is not only the mythological conceptions, such as 
the miracles, the ascension and the like (which are not in 
principle separable from the conceptions of God, faith and so 
on) that are problematic, but the ‘religious’ conceptions them- 
selves. You cannot, as Bultmann imagines, separate God and 
miracles, but you do have to be able to interpret and proclaim 
both of them in a ‘non-religious’ sense, Bultmann’s approach is 
really at bottom the liberal one (i.e. abridging the Gospel), 
whereas I seek to think theologically. 

What do I mean by ‘interpret in a religious sense’? In my 
view, that means to speak on the one hand metaphysically, 
and on the other individualistically. Neither of these is relevant 
to the Bible message or to the man of to-day. Is it not true to 
say that individualistic concern for personal salvation has 
almost completely left us all? Are we not really under the 
125] 



barth’s positivism 

impression that there are more important things than bother- 
ing about such a matter? (Perhaps not more important than 
the matter itself, but more than bothering about it.) I know it 
sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But is it not, at bottom, 
even Biblical? Is there any concern in the Old Testament about 
saving one’s soul at all? Is not righteousness and the kingdom 
of God on earth the focus of everything, and is not Romans 
3.i4fE, too, the culmination of the view that in God alone is 
righteousness, and not in an individualistic doctrine of salva- 
tion? It is not with the next world that we are concerned, but 
with this world as created and preserved and set subject to 
laws and atoned for and made new. What is above the world 
is, in the Gospel, intended to exist for this world — I mean 
that not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, pietistic, 
ethical theology, but in the Bible sense of the creation and 
of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus 
Christ. 

Barth was the first theologian to begin the criticism of reli- 
gion, — and that remains his really great merit — but he set in 
its place the positivist doctrine of revelation which says in 
effect, ‘Take it or leave it’: Virgin Birth, Trinity or anything 
else, everything which is an equally significant and necessary 
part of the whole, which latter has to be swallowed as a whole 
or not at all. That is not in accordance with the Bible. There are 
degrees of perception and degrees of significance, i.e. a secret dis- 
cipline must be re-established whereby the mysteries of the 
Christian faith are preserved from profanation. The positivist 
doctrine of revelation makes it too easy for itself, setting up, as 
in the ultimate analysis it does, a law of faith, and mutilating 
what is, by the incarnation of Christ, a gift for us. The place of 
religion is taken by the Church — that is, in itself, as the Bible 
teaches it should be — but the world is made to depend upon 
itself and left to its own devices, and that is all wrong. 

I am thinking over the problem at present how we may 
reinterpret in the manner ‘of the world’ — in the sense of the 
Old Testament and of John 1.14 — the concepts of repentance, 
faith, justification, rebirth, sanctification and so on. I shall be 
writing to you again about that. 



MOTHERS -IN-LAW 


Forgive me for writing all this in German script — normally 
I only use it when making notes for myself. And perhaps my 
reason for writing all this is to clear my own mind, rather than 
for your edification. I don’t really want to bother you with such 
problems, for 1 don’t suppose you will find time to come to 
grips with them, and there’s no need to worry you unneces- 
sarily. But I can’t help sharing my thoughts with you, for the 
simple reason that that’s the only way I can clarify my own 
mind. If this doesn’t suit you, please say so. — To-morrow is 
Cantate [the Fourth Sunday after Easter], and I shall be 
thinking of you, and enjoying pleasant memories. Good-bye. 
Be patient like me, and take care of yourself. 


May 6th 1944 

... I shall be writing about Christian ‘egoism’ next time 
— selfless self-love. I think we agree about that. Too much 
altruism is a bore, and makes too many claims. There is a 
kind of egoism which can be more selfless, and make less 
claims upon us. 


Cantate 

I have just heard some good music this morning by 
Reger and Hugo Distler, a good beginning for Sunday. The 
only jarring note was an interruption announcing that ‘Enemy 
detachments were proceeding towards so and so’ — the con- 
nexion between the two wasn’t immediately obvious. 

Last night I was thinking about the uses of mothers-in-law. 
I am sure they ought not to try and teach, for I can’t see they 
have any right to do that. Their privilege is rather to have 
acquired a grown-up son or daughter, and they must regard 
that as an enrichment to their family, not as an opportunity 
to criticize. They may find their joy in their children, and give 
any help or advice they are asked for, but the marriage com- 
pletely relieves them of any responsibility as teachers. That is 
really a privilege. I believe that a mother-in-law ought to be 
127] 



PURPOSE 


glad to see that someone else loves her child, and therefore she 
ought to put all other considerations into the background, 
especially any urge to mould character! 

How few people seem to have a proper appreciation of 
reticence! The siren is just going, so more later. ... It was 
pretty heavy again. 

With regard to reticence, it all depends on what we are 
keeping to ourselves, and that we have one friend with whom 
we can share everything. ... I think it is going too far to 
speak of the jealousy of mothers-in-law. It would be truer to 
say that there are two kinds of love, a mother’s and a wife’s, 
and this is the source of a great deal of misunderstanding. Yet, 
incidentally, it is much easier for the husband to get on with 
his mother-in-law than it is for the wife with hers, though the 
Bible gives a unique example of the contrary in Naomi and 
Ruth. 

Just lately I’ve been taken once or twice into the city for 
judicial examination. The result has been most satisfactory. But 
as they still haven’t fixed anything as regards the date, I’m 
really losing interest in my case. Often I don’t think anything 
about it for weeks on end. Finis! May God take care of us all. 


May gth 1944 

I am so glad to hear you are hoping to come home on leave 
soon. If you find you can manage to have the christening in a 
few days time, don’t let the thought of my absence do any- 
thing to spoil your joy. I hope to try and write something 
special for the occasion, and you know I shall be with you in 
spirit. It is certainly painful to think that contrary to all 
expectation I shall not be with you on that day, but I have 
reconciled myself to it. I’m sure everything that happens 
to me has a purpose, even if it cuts right across our own 
wishes. As I see it, I am here for some purpose, and I only 
hope I’m living up to it. In the light of our supreme purpose 
.all our personal privations and disappointments are trivial. It 
would be unworthy and wrongheaded to bemoan my present 
misfortunes on one of these rare occasions of joy like the 



PRIVATE HAPPINESS 


present. That would go entirely against the grain, and under- 
mine my optimism with regard to my case. Grateful as we are 
for every bit of private happiness that comes our way, we 
must not for a moment lose sight of the great causes we are 
living for, and they must cast light rather than gloom upon 
your joy. I couldn’t bear to think that I should be the cause of 
spoiling your few weeks of happiness, after you have had to 
fight so hard to get them. That would be a calamity, the other 
is not. I am quite happy so long as I can help you to keep the 
lustre of these spring days untarnished. Please don’t think for 
a moment that I am any loss to your company — far from it. 
And above all don’t think I find it an effort to write these 
words; they represent my earnest entreaty, and your compli- 
ance with them would only make me happy. If we did manage 
to meet while you are on leave, I should be only too happy, 
but don’t put yourself out about it — I still have vivid mem- 
ories of the 23rd December! — and please don’t lose a single 
day for the sake of spending a little time with me here. I know 
you would be only too willing, but I should be terribly dis- 
tressed if you did. But if your father did manage to arrange a 
visit as he did last December, I should of course be most 
grateful. Incidentally, I know we shall be both thinking of 
each other as we read the text for to-morrow, and I’m very 
glad you will both be able to read the Bible together again, 
for it will be a great help to you not only while you are 
together, but also later when you are separated again. Don’t 
let the shortness of your time together and the thought that 
you must soon part overshadow the happiness of your leave. 
Don’t try and do too much. Let other people come and see 
you and don’t go round to see everyone yourselves. I shouldn’t 
be at all surprised if the next weeks bring important and 
unexpected decisions which will have a profound effect on our 
lives, yet I do hope you will get a few days of undisturbed 
peace and quietness together. What a good thing you have 
this opportunity of making your plans for the future together. 

I should have loved to perform the baptism myself, but that’s 
neither here nor there. Above all, I hope the christening will 
help you to realize that all your lives, the child’s and your own, 

129] 



THE BAPTISM 


are under the protection of God, and that you can look for- 
ward to the future with confidence. Are you going to choose 
the text for the baptism yourself? If so, what about II Timothy 
2.1 or Proverbs 23.26 or 4.18 (I only came across the last one 
the other day; I think it’s beautiful). 

I don’t want to bother you with too long a letter right at 
the beginning of your reunion. All I wanted to do was to send 
you my best wishes and tell you I’m sharing your joy. Mind 
you have plenty of good music! 


May 16th 1944 

I have just heard you have sent a message saying you 
hope to arrive this morning. You can’t imagine how glad and 
relieved I am to think you can be here just now. For once I 
could almost say it’s providential, a real answer to prayer, and 
maybe you will agree. I am still hoping to write something 
for the christening. What about Psalm 90.14 as a text? I 
might have suggested Isaiah 8.18, but it’s rather too general. 

May 18th 1944 

I wanted to write something for the day of the baptism, 
and my chief reason for sending it is to show you that I’m 
thinking of you. ... I hope this day will be a long-cherished 
memory, and that it will set the tone for your leave. That I’m 
afraid will be all too brief, but I hope you’ll soon be home for 
good. Some memories are painful, others can be an inspiration: 
may the memory of this day be an inspiration to you when 
you are parted again. . . . Please don’t harbour any regrets 
about me. Martin [Niemoller] has had nearly seven years of 
it — and that’s very different. ... I have just heard you are 
coming to see me to-morrow. How wonderful; I had given 
up all hope of it myself. So I’m spending this day getting ready 
for your visit. Who managed to arrange it? Whoever it was, 
I am most grateful. 


May 19th 1944 

I cannot tell you how much joy your visit has given me, 



THE POLYPHONY OF LIFE 


and also your courage in coming, just the two of you together. 
It was marvellous. I was deeply moved to hear about your 
recent experiences. I’m in too great a hurry to go into detail 
to-day. Above all, I pray you may find that peace which 
you so badly need, both within and without, after all these 
upsets you've had lately. I was awfully sorry the alarm was on 
just when you came, and I breathed a sigh of relief when the 
commandant brought your telephone message. The meaning 
of things is often obscure. But don’t you find it a relief to 
know that some things are unavoidable, and have just got to 
be endured, even though we can’t see the purpose behind it^ 
all? That’s something I have learnt more clearly here. 


May 20th 1944 

There is always a danger of intense love destroying what 
I might call the ‘polyphony’ of life. What I mean is that God 
requires that we should love him eternally with our whole 
hearts, yet not so as to compromise or diminish our earthly 
affections, but as a kind of cantus jirmus to which the other 
melodies of life provide the counterpoint. Earthly affection is 
one of these contrapuntal themes, a theme which enjoys an 
autonomy of its own. Even the Bible can find room for the 
Song of Songs, and one could hardly have a more passionate 
and sensual love than is there portrayed (see 7.6). It is a good 
thing that that book is included in the Bible as a protest against 
those who believe that Christianity stands for the restraint of 
passion (is there any example of such restraint anywhere in the 
Old Testament?). Where the ground bass is firm and clear, 
there is nothing to stop the counterpoint from being developed 
to the utmost of its limits. Both ground bass and counterpoint 
are ‘without confusion and yet distinct’, in the words of the 
Chalcedonian formula, like Christ in his divine and human 
natures. Perhaps the importance of polyphony in music lies in 
the fact that it is a musical reflection of this Christological 
truth, and that it is therefore an essential element in the 
Christian life. All this occurred to me after you were here. 
Can you see what I’m driving at? I wanted to tell you that we 

131] 



THE KINGDOM OF GOD 

must have a good, clear cantus firmus. Without it there can be 
no full or perfect sound, but with it the counterpoint has a 
firm support and cannot get out of tune or fade out, yet is 
always a perfect whole in its own right. Only a polyphony of 
this kind can give life a wholeness, and at the same time assure 
us that nothing can go wrong so long as the cantus firmus is 
kept going. Perhaps your leave and the separation which lies 
ahead will be easier for you to bear. Please do not fear or hate 
separation if it should come, with all its attendant perils, but 
pin your faith on the cantus firmus. — I don t know if I have 
made myself clear, but one speaks so seldom of such things. . . . 


May 2 ist 1944 

I have put the date at the head of this letter as my share 
in the christening and all the preparations for it. At the same 
moment the siren went off, and I’m now sitting in the guard- 
room and hoping you won’t have an air raid on this day of all 
days. What times we live in! What a baptism! And how much 
we shall have to look back on in years to come! All that 
matters is that we should make proper use of these memories 
and turn them to spiritual account. That will make them 
harder, clearer and more defiant, which is a good thing. There 
is no place for sentimentality on a day like this. If in the middle 
of an air raid God sends forth the gospel summons into his 
Kingdom in Holy Baptism, that will be a clear sign of the 
nature and purpose of that Kingdom. For it is a Kingdom 
stronger than war and danger, a Kingdom of power and 
mig ht-, signifying to some eternal terror and judgement, to 
others eternal joy and righteousness, not a Kingdom of the 
heart, but one as wide as the earth, not transitory, but eternal, 
a Kingdom which makes a way for itself and summons men 
to itself to prepare its way, a Kingdom worthy of our life’s 
devotion. The shooting is just starting, but it doesn’t look as 
though it’s going to be too bad to-day. How I should love to 
hear you preaching in a few hours’ time! At eight this morning 
I heard a choral performance of Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan 
— a good beginning for the day. As I listened I thought of 



THE GODSON 


you. I hadn t heard, an. organ for a long time, and its clear tone 
was like a refuge in time of trouble. 

I suppose you will be making an after-dinner speech, and 
thinking of me as you do so. I should love to hear you. The 
very fact that we so rarely say such words to one another 
makes one yearn for them from time to time. Do you under- 
stand that? Perhaps absence makes one feel it all the more 
strongly. I used to take such things for granted, and I do so 
still, in spite of everything. 

The subject of polyphony is still pursuing me. I was thinking 
to-day how painful it is without you, and it occurred to me 
how pain and joy are also part of the polyphony of life, and 
that they can exist independently side by side. 

All clear! I’m so glad for your sake. I have two sprigs of 
lilac on my desk: someone brought them for me to-day, 
touching of them, wasn’t it? I have also put the photos you 
brought in front of me, and am gazing at the baby who is 
being baptized to-day. I think he’s lovely, and if he takes after 
me in looks, I only hope he will be as free from toothache and 
headache as I am, and be blessed with my leg muscles and 
sensitive gums — though that can sometimes be a disadvantage. 
For other things he can do better elsewhere. ... He has also 
inherited the best thing about me, my name. I have always 
been satisfied with it, and in my younger days I was actually 
proud of it. Believe me, I shall always be a good godfather 
to him and do all I can to help him. In fact, I don’t believe he 
could have a better one! 

If war seems to you to spell nothing else but death, you are 
certainly not doing justice to the manifold ways of God. We 
have all our appointed hour of death, and it will always find 
us wherever we go. And we must be ready for it. But 

He knows ten thousand ways 
To save us from death’s power . 

He gives us food and meat 
A boon injamines hour . 

— that’s something we must never forget. I am sending you a 
letter for you to give to Niebuhr, in case the worst comes 

133 ] 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

true. 1 We must also fix a rendezvous. Later on I have no doubt 
we shall be able to keep in touch through N. and Uncle 
George. 2 

THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 
OF D.W.R. 

You are the first of a new generation in our family, and there- 
fore the oldest representative of your generation. You will 
have the priceless advantage of spending a good part of your 
life with the third and fourth generation that went before 
you. Your great-grandfather will be able to tell you from his 
own memories of people who were bom in the eighteenth 
century, and some day, long after 2000 a.d. you will be a 
living bridge for more than 250 years’ oral tradition, though 
of course with Jacob’s proviso, ‘If God will and we live’. So 
your birth provides a suitable occasion to ponder on the 
vicissitudes of history and to try to scan the outlines of the 
future. 

★ * ★ 

The three names you bear are reminders of three houses 
which are most intimately connected with your life, and 
which should remain so. Your grandfather on your father’s 
side lived in a country parsonage. A simple, healthy life, with 
wide intellectual interests, a zest for life’s little pleasures, a 
natural and ingenuous companionship with ordinary folk, a 
capacity for self-help in practical things, a modesty grounded 
in spiritual contentment — these are the earthly values which 
were at home in the country parsonage, values you will meet 
in your father. Whatever may betide you, they will always 
help you to live together with others, to achieve real success 
and inner happiness. 

The urban middle class culture embodied in the home of 
your mother’s parents stands for pride in public service, intel- 
lectual achievement and leadership, a deep rooted sense of 
duty towards a noble heritage and cultural tradition. This will 

1 In case the Editor should be taken prisoner of war. 

2 The Bishop of Chichester. 


[U4 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

give you, even before you are aware of it, a way of thinking 
and acting which you will never lose without being untrue 
to yourself. 

It was a kindly thought of your parents that you should be 
known by the name of your great-uncle, the Vicar of your 
father s parish and a great friend of his, who at the moment 
is sharing the fate of many other good Germans and Protestant 
Christians, and who therefore has only been able to participate 
at a distance in your parents’ wedding and in your own birth 
and baptism, but who looks forward to your future with great 
confidence and cheerful hope. He is striving to keep up the 
spirit he sees embodied in his parents’ home — your great- 
grandparents, so far as he understands it. He takes it as a good 
omen for your future that it was in this house that your 
parents got to know each other, and hopes that sometime you 
too will be grateful for the spirit of this house, and draw 
inspiration from it yourself. By the time you are grown up, 
the old country parsonage and the old town villa will belong 
to a vanished world. But the old spirit will still be there, and 
will assume new forms, after a time of neglect and weakness, 
of withdrawal and recovery, of preservation and convales- 
cence. To be deeply rooted in the soil makes life harder, but it 
also enriches it and gives it vigour. There are certain funda- 
mental truths about human life to which men will always 
return sooner or later. So there is no need to hurry: we must 
be able to wait. ‘God seeketh again that which is passed away’ 
(Ecclesiastes 3.15). 

In the revolutionary times ahead it will be a priceless gift to 
know the security of a good home. It will provide a bulwark 
against all dangers from within and from without. The time 
when children rebelled in arrogance against their parents will 
be past. Children will be drawn for shelter to their parents, 
and in their home they will seek counsel, peace and light. It is 
your fortune to have parents who know by experience what 
it means to have a parental home in time of trouble. Amid the 
general impoverishment of culture you will find your parents’ 
home a storehouse of spiritual values and a source of intellec- 
tual stimulation. Music, as understood and practised by your 
135 ] 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

parents, will dissolve your perplexities and purify your char- 
acter and emotions, and in time of anxiety and sorrow will 
help you to keep going a ground bass of joy. Your parents 
will soon be teaching you to help yourself and never to be 
afraid of soiling your hands. The piety of your home will not 
be noisy or loquacious, but you will be brought up to say your 
prayers and to fear God above all things, to love him and to 
do the will of Jesus Christ. ‘My son, keep the commandments 
of thy father, And forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind 
them continually upon thy heart, Tie them about thy neck. 
When thou walkest, it shall watch over thee: When thou 
sleepest it shall lead thee: And when thou wakest, it shall talk 
with thee’ (Proverbs 6.20-22). ‘To-day is salvation come to 
this house’ (Luke 19.9). 

★ ★ ★ 

It would be much the best thing if you were brought up in 
the country. But it will be a very different countryside from 
that in which your father was brought up. People used to think 
that the big cities offered the fullest kind of life, and pleasure 
in abundance. They used to flock to them like pilgrims to a 
feast. But now these cities have brought death upon themselves, 
and women and children have fled from them in terror. The age 
of big cities on our continent seems to have come to an end. The 
Bible tells us that Cain was the first city dweller. A world metro- 
polis may survive here and there, but their brilliance, alluring 
though it may be, will have an air of uncanniness about it, for 
us Europeans at any rate. This flight from the city will bring 
tremendous changes to the countryside. The tranquillity and 
remoteness of country life were already being undermined by 
the advent of the radio, the car and the telephone, and by the 
spread of bureaucracy into practically every department of life. 
And now that millions who can no longer endure the totali- 
tarian claims of city life are flocking to the land, now that 
industries are being dispersed in rural areas, the urbanizing of 
the countryside will proceed apace, and the whole pattern of 
life there will be revolutionized. The village as it was thirty 
years ago no more exists to-day than the idyllic isles of the 

[136 



thoughts on the baptism 

southern seas. Much as he needs solitude and peace, a man will 
find them very difficult to come by. But it will be an advantage 
amid all these changes to have beneath one’s feet a few inches 
of soil from which to draw the resources for a new, natural, 
unpretentious and contented day’s work and evening’s leisure. 

But godliness with contentment is great gain . . . but having 
food and covering, we shall therewith be content’ (I Timothy 
6 .6f.). ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches: Feed me with the 
food that is needful for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and 
say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, And use 
profanely the name of my God’ (Proverbs 30.8f.). ‘Flee out of 
the midst of Babylon, and save every man his life; be not cut 
off in her iniquity’ (Jeremiah i .6). 

★ ★ ★ 

We have grown up in a society which believed that every 
man had the right to plan his own life. There was, we were 
taught, a purpose in life, and it was every man’s duty to 
accept that purpose resolutely, and pursue it to the best of his 
powers. Since then however we have learnt that it is impos- 
sible to plan even for one day ahead, that all our work may 
be destroyed overnight, and that our life, compared with our 
parents’, has become formless and fragmentary. Despite every- 
thing, however, I can only say I should not have chosen to 
live in any other age than our own, though it is so regardless 
of our external fortunes. Never have we realized, as we do 
to-day, how the world lies under the wrath and grace of God. 
In Jeremiah 45 we read: ‘Thus saith the Lord: Behold, that 
which I have built will I break down, and that which I planted 
I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. And seekest thou 
great things for thyself? seek them not: for behold, I will bring 
evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto 
thee for a prey whither thou goest.’ If we can save our souls 
unscathed from the debris of civilization, let us be satisfied 
with that. If the Creator destoys his own handiwork, what 
right have we to lament over the destruction of ours? The task 
laid upon our generation is not the indulgence of lofty ambi- 
tions, but the saving of ourselves alive out of the debris, as a 
137 ] 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

brand plucked from the burning. ‘Keep thy heart with all 
diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4.23). 
We shall have to keep our lives going rather than shape them, 
to endure, rather than forge ahead. But we do want to preserve 
an heritage for you, the rising generation, so that you will have 
the resources for building a new and better world. 

★ ★ ★ 

We have spent too much time thinking, supposing that if 
only we weigh every possibility in advance, everything will 
somehow happen automatically. We have learnt a bit too late 
in the day that action springs not t from thought, but from a 
readiness for responsibility. For you thought and action will 
have a new relationship. Your thinking will be confined to 
your responsibilities in action. With us thought was often the 
luxury of the looker-on; with you it will be entirely subordin- 
ated to action. ‘Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, 
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the 
will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7.21). 

★ ★ ★ 

To-day we have almost succeeded in banishing pain from 
our lives. To be as free from pain as possible had become one 
of our unconscious ideals. Nicety of feeling, sensitivity to our 
own and other people’s pain — these things are at once the 
strength and the weakness of our way of life. From the very 
outset your generation will be tougher and closer to real life, 
for you will have had to endure privation and pain, and your 
patience will have been sorely tried. ‘It is good for a man that 
he bear the yoke in his youth’ (Lamentations 3.27). 

★ ★ ★ 

We believed that reason and justice were the key to success, 
and where both failed, we felt we were at the end of our 
tether. We have constantly exaggerated the importance of 
reason and justice in the historical process. You are growing 
up during a world war which ninety per cent, of the human race 
did not want, yet for which they have to forfeit goods and 

[ 13.8 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

life. So you are learning from childhood that the world is con- 
trolled by forces against which reason is powerless. This know- 
ledge will enable you to cope with these powers more soberly 
and effectively. Again, in our lives the ‘enemy’ had no sub- 
stantial reality. You know that you have enemies and friends, 
and you know what both can mean in life. You are learning 
from the cradle how to deal with your enemy, which is some- 
thing we never knew, and you are learning to put unreserved 
trust in your friends. ‘Is there not a warfare to man upon 
earth? (Job 7.1). Blessed be the Lord my strength: who 
teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight. My hope 
and my fortress, my casde and deliverer, my defender in whom 
I trust (Psalm 144. if.). There is a friend that sticketh closer 
than a brother (Proverbs 18.24). 

★ ★ ★ 

Are we moving towards an age of colossal organizations 
and collective institutions, or will the desire of multitudes for 
small, manageable, personal relationships be satisfied? Must 
they be mutually exclusive? Is it not just conceivable that 
world organizations with their wide meshes should allow more 
scope for private interests? The same considerations apply to 
the question as to whether we are moving towards an age of 
the selection of the fittest, i.e. an aristocratic society, or to a 
uniform equality in all material and spiritual aspects of human 
life. Though there has been a good deal of equalization in this 
field, there is still a fine sensitiveness in all ranks of society for 
such human values as justice, success, and courage, and this Is 
creating a new selection of potential leaders. It should not be 
difficult for us to forfeit our privileges, recognizing the justice 
of history. We may have to face events and changes which 
run counter to our rights and wishes. But if so, we shall not 
give way to bitterness and foolish pride, but consciously submit 
to divine judgement, and thus prove our worthiness to survive 
by identifying ourselves generously and unselfishly with the 
life of the community and the interests of our fellowmen. ‘But 
the nation that shall bring their neck under the yoke of the 
king of Babylon and serve him, that nation will I let remain 
139 ] 



THOUGHTS ON THE BAPTISM 

in their own land, saith the Lord: and they shall till it and 
dwell therein’ (Jeremiah 27.11). ‘Seek the peace of that city 
. . . and pray unto the Lord for it’ (Jeremiah 29.7). ‘Come, my 
people, enter thou into thy chambers and shut thy doors: hide 
thyself for a little moment, until the danger be overpast’ 
(Isaiah 26.20). ‘For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an 
eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a 
night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psalm 30.5). 

★ * ★ 

To-day you are being baptized as a Christian. The ancient 
words of the Christian proclamation will be uttered over you, 
and the command of Jesus to baptize will be performed over 
you, without your knowing anything about it. But we too 
are being driven back to first principles. Atonement and 
redemption, regeneration, the Holy Ghost, the love of our 
enemies, the cross and resurrection, life in Christ and Christian 
discipleship — all these things have become so problematic and 
so remote that we hardly dare any more to speak of them. In 
the traditional rite and ceremonies we are groping after some- 
thing new and revolutionary without being able to understand 
it or utter it yet. That is our own fault. During these years the 
Church has fought for self-preservation as though it were an 
end in itself, and has thereby lost its chance to speak a word of 
reconciliation to mankind and the world at large. So our tradi- 
tional language must perforce become powerless and remain 
silent, and our Christianity to-day will be confined to praying 
for and doing right by our fellow men. Christian thinking, 
speaking and organization must be reborn out of this praying 
and this action. By the time you are grown up, the form of the 
Church will have changed beyond recognition. We are not 
yet out of the melting pot, and every attempt to hasten 
matters will only delay the Church’s conversion and purgation. 
It is not for us to prophesy the day, but the day will come 
when men will be called again to utter the word of God with 
such power as will change and renew the world. It will be a 
new language, which will horrify men, and yet overwhelm 
them by its power. It will be the language of a new righteous- 



DUTIES OF GODPARENTS 


ness and truth, a language which proclaims the peace of God 
with men and the advent of his kingdom. ‘And (they) shall 
fear and tremble for all the good and for all the peace that I 
procure unto it* (Jeremiah 33-9)- Until then the Christian 
cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those 
who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time. ‘The 
path of the righteous is as a shining light, That shineth more 
and more unto the perfect day’ (Proverbs 4.18). 


May 24th ig44 

. . . On the duties of godparents. In the old books the 
godparents often played, an important part in the child’s life. 
Growing children frequently require sympathy, kindliness 
and advice from adults other than their parents. The god- 
parents are the people chosen by the parents for this function. 
The godparent has the right to give good advice, the parents 
to command. . . . 

... I am reading with great interest Weizsacker’s book about 
the ‘physical picture of the world’ and hope to get a lot from 
it for my own work. If only there was some chance of an 
interchange of ideas. . . . 


May 25th ig44 

I hope that despite the alarms you are enjoying the peace 
and beauty of these warm, summer-like Whitsun days. Gradu- 
ally one acquires an inner detachment from the dangers that 
beset us. Detachment however seems too negative, artificial 
and stoic a word to use. Rather, we assimilate these dangers 
into the wholeness of our life. I have repeatedly observed here 
how few there are who can make room for conflicting 
emotions at- the same time. When the bombers come, they are 
all fear; when there is something good to eat, they are all 
greed; when they are disappointed they are all despair; when 
they are successful, they can think of nothing else. They miss 
the fullness of life and the wholeness of an independent 
existence. Everything subjective and objective is dissolved for 
them into fragments. By contrast, Christianity plunges us into 

I4i] 



MULTI-DIMENSIONAL LIFE 


many different dimensions of life simultaneously. We can 
make room in our hearts, to some extent at least, for God 
and the whole world. We weep with them that weep, and 
rejoice with them that do rejoice. We are afraid (I was again 
interrupted by the alarm, and am now sitting out of doors 
enjoying the sun) for our life, but at the same time we must 
think of things more important than life itself. When an 
alarm goes off, for example, we have other things to think 
about than anxiety for our own safety; we have, e.g. to help 
others around us to keep calm. The moment that happens, the 
whole picture is changed. Life is not compressed into a single 
dimension, but is kept multi-dimensional and polyphonous. 
What a deliverance it is to be able to think, and in thinking to 
preserve this multi-dimensionality. When people tremble at 
an impending air-raid, I have almost made it a rule to tell them 
how much worse it would be for a small town. We have to 
keep men out of their one-track minds. That is a sort of pre- 
paration for faith, although it is only faith itself that can make 
possible a multi-dimensional life, and enable us to keep even 
this Whitsun despite the alarms. 

At first I was disconcerted, and not a little grieved to have no 
letters this Whitsun. But I said to myself it was perhaps a sign 
that no one was worrying about me. It’s strange how we like 
others to be anxious about us, a little bit at any rate. 

Weizsacker’s book on the world view of physics is still 
keeping me busy. It has brought home to me how wrong it 
is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our know- 
ledge. For the frontiers of knowledge are inevitably being 
pushed back further and further, which means that you only 
think of God as a stop-gap. He also is being pushed back 
further and further, and is in more or less continuous retreat. 
We should find God in what we do know, not in what we 
don’t; not in outstanding problems, but in those we have 
already solved. This is true not only for the relation between 
Christianity and science, but also for wider human problems 
such as guilt, suffering and death. It is possible nowadays to 
find answers to these problems which leave God right out 
of the picture. It just isn’t true to say that Christianity alone 



CHRIST THE CENTRE 


has the answers. In fact the Christian answers are no more 
conclusive or compelling than any of the others. Once more, 
God cannot be used as a stop-gap. We must not wait until 
we are at the end of our tether: he must be found at the 
centre of life: in life, and not only in death; in health and 
vigour, and not only in suffering; in activity, and not only in 
sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Christ. 
Christ is the centre of life, and in no sense did he come to 
answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain 
questions are seen to be wholly irrelevant, and so are the 
answers commonly given to them — I am thinking for example 
of the judgement pronounced on the friends of Job. In Christ 
there are no Christian problems. Enough of this; I have just 
been disturbed again. 


May 30th 1944 Evening 

I am sitting upstairs by myself. All is quiet in the house: 
outside a few birds are still singing, and I can even hear the 
cuckoo in the distance. I find these long, warm evenings rather 
trying — it’s the second time I have had to live through them 
here. I long to be outside, and if I weren’t such a rational 
person, I might do something foolish. I wonder if we have 
become too rational? When you have deliberately suppressed 
every desire for so long, it bums you up inside, or else you 
get so bottled up that one day there is a terrific explosion. The 
only alternative is the achievement of complete selflessness. I 
know better than anyone else that that has not happened to 
me. I expect you will say it’s wrong to suppress one’s desires, 
and you would be quite right. ... So I seek diversion in 
thinking and writing letters . . . and curb my desires as a 
measure of self-protection. I know it sounds paradoxical, but 
it would be more selfless if I had no fear of my desires, but 
could give them free rein — but that would be very difficult. 
Just now I happened to hear Solveig’s song on the wireless 
up in the guard-room. It quite got hold of me. To wait 
loyally a whole life time — that is triumphing over the hostility 
of space, that is, separation, and of time, that is, the past. 
Don t you agree that loyalty like this is the only road to 

143 ] 



WRITING POETRY 


happiness, and that disloyalty is the source of unhappiness? 
Well, I’m off to bed now, in case we get another disturbed 
night. Good night. 


June 2nd 1944 

While you were in Italy I wrote about the Song of Songs. 
I must say, I prefer to read it as an ordinary love poem, which 
is probably the best christological exposition too. I must 
ponder further on Ephesians 5. I hope you’ve found my 
reflections on Bultmann, if they haven’t gone astray. 

June $ih 1944 

I don’t see any point in my not telling you I have occasion- 
ally felt the urge to write poetry. You are the first person I’ve 
mentioned it to. So I’m sending you a sample, first because 
I think it’s silly to have any secrets from you, and then because 
I thought I would like to give you a pleasant surprise for your 
journey, and lastly because the theme of it is very much in 
your thoughts at the moment, and what I am trying to say 
may perhaps ring a bell in your mind. This dialogue with the 
past, this attempt to hold it fast and recover it, and above all 
the fear of losing it, is the almost daily accompaniment of my 
life here, and sometimes, especially after brief visits, followed 
as they nearly always are by long partings, it becomes a theme 
with variations. To take leave of others, and to live on past 
memories — it makes no difference whether it was yesterday 
or years ago, they soon melt into one — is my ever-recurring 
duty, and you yourself once wrote, that saying good-bye went 
very much against the grain. In this attempt of mine the 
crucial part is the last few lines. I’m inclined to think it is 
rather too short — what do you think? Strangely enough, the 
lines came out as rhymes of their own accord. The whole thing 
was composed in a few hours, and I have made no attempt to 
polish it up. . . . Perhaps I shall suppress this urge another time, 
and spend my time more profitably on other things. But I 
want to be guided by your opinion. If you like, I’ll send you 
some further samples for your inspection. 



THE AUTONOMY OF MAN 


June 6th 1944 
( The Normandy Landing ) 

My sole excuse for dashing off this note and my kind 
regards is that I want us to share this day together. It did not 
come as a surprise, yet things always turn out differently from 
what we expect. To-day’s text takes us to the heart of the 
Gospel — redemption — and that is the key word to it all. Let 
us face the weeks ahead in faith and assurance, so far as the 
general future is concerned, and let us entrust your way and 
all our ways to God. Xapis kocI £ipf|vrj ! 


June 8th 1944 

I daresay, all things considered, you went off with a much 
lighter heart than you had feared at first. We had put off our 
meeting again from Christmas to Easter, then from Easter to 
Whitsun; first one feast passed then another. But the next 
feast is sure to be ours; I have no doubt about that now. 

You have asked so many important questions on the sub- 
jects that have been occupying me lately, that I should be 
happy if I could answer them all myself. But f m afraid the 
whole thing is very much in the initial stages. As usual, I am 
led on more by an instinctive feeling for the questions which 
are bound to crop up rather than by any conclusions I have 
reached already. I will try to define my position from the 
historical angle. 

The movement beginning about the thirteenth century (I 
am not going to get involved in any arguments about the exact 
date) towards the autonomy of man (under which head I 
place the discovery of the laws by which the world lives and 
manages in science, social and political affairs, art, ethics and 
religion) has in our time reached a certain completion. Man 
has learned to cope with all questions of importance without 
recourse to God as a working hypothesis. In questions con- 
cerning science, art, and even ethics, this has become an 
understood thing which one scarcely dares to tilt at any more. 
But for the last hundred years or so it lias been increasingly 
145] Kdb 



EXISTENTIALISM 


true of religious questions also: it is becoming evident that 
everything gets along without 'God’, and just as well as 
before. As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, 
what we call 4 God’ is being more and more edged out of life, 
losing more and more ground. 

Catholic and Protestant historians are agreed that it is in 
this development that the great defection from God, from 
Christ, is to be discerned, and the more they bring in and 
make use of God and Christ in opposition to this trend, the 
more the trend itself considers itself to be anti-Christian. The 
world which has attained to a realization of itself and of the 
laws which govern its existence is so sure of itself that we 
become frightened. False starts and failures do not make the 
world deviate from the path and development it is following; 
they are accepted with fortitude and detachment as part of the 
bargain, and even an event like the present war is no exception. 
Christian apologetic has taken the most varying forms of 
opposition to this self-assurance. Efforts are made to prove to a 
world thus come of age that it cannot live without the tutelage 
of ‘God’. Even though there has been surrender on all secular 
problems, there still remain the so-called ultimate questions — 
death, guilt — on which only ‘God’ can furnish an answer, and 
which are the reason why God and the Church and the pastor 
are needed. Thus we live, to some extent, by these ultimate 
questions of humanity. But what if one day they no longer exist 
as such, if they too can be answered without 'God’? We have 
of course the secularized off-shoots of Christian theology, 
the existentialist philosophers and the psychotherapists, who 
demonstrate to secure, contented, happy mankind that it is 
really unhappy and desperate, and merely unwilling to 
realize that it is in severe straits it knows nothing at all about, 
from which only they can rescue it. Wherever there is health, 
strength, security, simplicity, they spy luscious fruit to gnaw 
at or to lay their pernicious eggs in. They make it their object 
first of all to drive men to inward despair, and then it is all 
theirs. That is secularized methodism. And whom does it 
touch? A small number of intellectuals, of degenerates, of 
people who regard themselves as the most important thing in 

[146 



FALSE CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS 

the world and hence like looking after themselves. The 
ordinary man who spends his everyday life at work, and with 
his family, and of course with all kinds of hobbies and other 
interests too, is not affected. He has neither time nor inclination 
for thinking about his intellectual despair and regarding his 
modest share of happiness as a trial, a trouble or a disaster. 

The attack by Christian apologetic upon the adulthood of 
the world I consider to be in the first place pointless, in the 
second ignoble, and in the third un-Christian. Pointless, 
because it looks to me like an attempt to put a grown-up man 
back into adolescence, i.e. to make him dependent on things 
on which he is not in fact dependent any more, thrusting him 
back into the midst of problems which are in fact not problems 
for him any more. Ignoble, because this amounts to an effort 
to exploit the weakness of man for purposes alien to him and 
not freely subscribed to by him. Un-Christian, because for 
Christ himself is being substituted one particular stage in the 
religiousness of man, i.e. a human law. Of this more later. 

But first a word or two on the historical situation. The 
question is, Christ and the newly matured world. It was the 
weak point of liberal theology that it allowed the world the 
right to assign Christ his place in that world: in the dispute 
between Christ and the world it accepted the comparatively 
clement peace dictated by the world. It was its strong point 
that it did not seek to put back the clock, and genuinely 
accepted the battle (Troeltsch), even though this came to an 
end with its overthrow. 

Overthrow was succeeded by capitulation and an attempt at 
a completely fresh start based on consideration of the Bible 
and Reformation fundamentals of the faith. Heim sought, 
along pietist and methodist lines, to convince individual man 
that 'he was faced with the alternative ‘either despair or Jesus’. 
He gained ‘hearts’. Althaus, carrying forward the modern 
and positive line with a strong confessional emphasis, endeav- 
oured to wring from the world a place for Lutheran teaching 
(ministry) and Lutheran worship, and otherwise left the world 
to its own devices. Tillich set out to interpret the evolution of 
the world itself— against its will — in a religious sense, to give it 
147 ] 



TILLICH AND BARTH 


its whole shape through religion. That was very courageous of 
him, but the world unseated him and went on by itself: he 
too sought to understand the world better than it understood 
itself, but it felt entirely misunderstood, and rejected the 
imputation. (Of course the world does need to be understood 
better than it understands itself, but not ‘religiously’, as the 
religious socialists desired.) Barth was the first to realize the 
mistake that all these efforts (which were all unintentionally 
sailing in the channel of liberal theology) were making in having 
as their objective the clearing of a space for religion in the 
world or against the world. 

He called the God of Jesus Christ into the lists against 
religion, ‘ pneuma against sarx\ That was and is his greatest ser- 
vice (the second edition of his Epistle to the Romans, in spite 
of all its neo-Kantian shavings). Through his later dogmatics, 
he enabled the Church to effect this distinction in principle all 
along the line. It was not that he subsequently, as is often 
claimed, failed in ethics, for his ethical observations — so far as he 
has made any — are just as significant as his dogmatic ones; it was 
that he gave no concrete guidance, either in dogmatics or in 
ethics, on the non-religious interpretation of theological con- 
cepts. There lies his hmitation, and because of it his theology 
of revelation becomes positivist, a ‘positivism of revelation’, 
as I put it. 

The Confessing Church has to a great extent forgotten all 
about the Barthian approach, and lapsed from positivism into 
conservative restoration. The important thing about that 
Church is that it carries on the great concepts of Christian 
theology, but that seems all it will do. There are, certainly, 
in these concepts the elements of genuine prophetic quality 
(under which head come both the claim to truth and the 
mercy you mention) and of genuine worship, and to that 
extent the message of the Confessing Church meets only with 
attention, hearing and rejection. But they both remain unex- 
plained and remote, because there is no interpretation of them. 

People like, for instance, Schiitz, or the Oxford Group, or 
the Bemeucheners, who miss the ‘movement’ and ‘life’, are dan- 
gerous reactionaries, retrogressive because they go straight 

[148 



BULTMANN AND LIBERALISM 


back behind the approach of revelation theology and seek for 
‘religious’ renewal. They simply do not understand the 
problem at all, and what they say is entirely beside the point. 
There is no future for them (though the Oxford people would 
have the biggest chance if they were not so completely 
devoid of biblical substance). 

Bultmann would seem to have felt Barth’s limitations in 
some way, but he misconstrues them in the light of liberal 
theology, and hence goes off into the typical liberal reduction 
process (the ‘mythological’ elements of Christianity are 
dropped, and Christianity is reduced to its ‘essence’). I am of 
the view that the full content, including the mythological con- 
cepts, must be maintained. The New Testament is not a 
mythological garbing of the universal truth; this mythology 
(resurrection and so on) is the thing itself— but the concepts 
must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion 
a pre-condition of faith (cf. circumcision in St. Paul). Not 
until that is achieved will, in my opinion, liberal theology be 
overcome (and even Barth is still dominated by it, though 
negatively), and, at the same time, the question it raises be 
genuinely taken up and answered — which is not the case in the 
positivism of revelation maintained by the Confessing Church. 

The world’s coming of age is then no longer an occasion for 
polemics and apologetics, but it is really better understood than 
it understands itself, namely on the basis of the Gospel, and 
in the light of Christ. 

You ask whether this leaves any room for the Church, or 
has it gone for good? And again, did not Jesus himself use 
distress as his point of contact with men, whether as a conse- 
quence the ‘methodism’ I have so frowned upon is not right 
after all? I’m breaking offhere, and will write more to-morrow. 


June 2 1st 1944 

Now you are somewhere searching for your unit, and I 
hope that when you reach it you will find some letters to greet 
you there, that is, assuming your old field post number is still 
correct. All I want to do to-day is to send you my best wishes. 

149 ] 



THE GREEK GODS 


I daren’t enclose tlie next instalments of theology or poetry 
for fear they go astray. As soon as I am certain about your 
address, there will be some more to follow. I am most grateful 
for your comments and criticisms on the poem. I feel rather 
at sea with these new children of mine, and haven’t any 
standards to judge them by. 

This morning we had one of the worst air raids so far. My 
room was filled with a cloud of smoke which hung about for 
several hours. The whole city was shrouded in it, and it was 
so dark I almost switched the light on. Have just heard that 
all’s well at home. 

It often seems hard to have to spend a second summer here. 
But it’s not for us to choose where we are to be. So we must 
keep on trying to banish those petty thoughts that irritate, and 
win our way through to those great thoughts which are a 
source of inspiration. Just now I’m reading an outstanding 
book by W. F. Otto, the Classics man at Koenigsberg. It’s about 
the Greek Gods. To quote from his closing words, it is about 
‘this world of faith, which sprang from the wealth and depth 
of human existence, rather than from its cares and longings’. 
I wonder if you will understand me when I say I find something 
attractive in this theme and the way it is treated in this book. 
In fact, I find these gods — horribile dictu — less offensive when 
treated like this than certain brands of Christianity! I believe 
I could pretty nearly claim these gods for Christ. This book 
is most helpful for my present theological reflections. 


[150 



SORROW AND JOY 


Sorrow and Joy: 

striking suddenly on our startled senses 
seem, at the first approach , all hut impossible 
of just distinction one from the other: 
even as frost and heat at the first keen contact 
hum us alike . 

Joy and Sorrow , 

hurled from the height of heaven in meteor fashion, 
flash in an arc of shining menace o 9 er us . 

Those they touch are left 
stricken amid the fragments 
of their colourless, usual lives . 

Imperturbable, mighty, 
ruinous and compelling. 

Sorrow and Joy 

— summoned or all unsought for — 
processionally enter . 

Those they encounter 
they transfigure, investing them 
with strange gravity 
and a spirit of ivorship . 

Joy is rich in fears: 

Sorrow has its sweetness . 

^Indistinguishable from each other 
they approach us from eternity, 
equally potent in their power and terror . 

From every quarter 
mortals come hurrying: 
part envious, part awe-struck, 
swarming, and peering 
into the portent; 

where the mystery sent from above us 
is transmuting into the inevitable 
order of earthly human drama . 

I5i] 



SORROW AND JOY 

What then is Joy? What then is Sorrow? 

Time alone can decide between them , 
when the immediate poignant happening 
lengthens out to continuous wearisome suffering ; 
when the laboured creeping moments of daylight 
slowly uncover the fulness of our disaster 
Sorrow's unmistakable features. 

Then do most of our kind 

sated, if only by the monotony 

of unrelieved unhappiness, 

turn away from the drama, disillusioned, 

uncompassionate . 

O ye mothers, and loved ones — then, ah, then 
comes your hour, the hour for true devotion. 
Then your hour comes, ye friends and brothers! 
Loyal hearts can change the face of Sorrow, 
softly encircle it ivith love's most gentle 
unearthly radiance. 


[152 



LETTERS TO A FRIEND 


June 27th 1944 

Though I haven't the least idea whether the post is reach- 
ing you, or when it is likely to arrive, I'm still addressing this 
by your old field post number. I should prefer to wait till I 
hear from you before resuming my theological reflections, 
and the same goes for the verses, which are more suitable for 
an evening's talk than for a long journey by post. That is 
particularly true of my latest effort, a somewhat lengthy 
effusion on my impressions of prison life . 1 

At the moment I am engaged in expounding the first three 
commandments. I find No. 2 particularly difficult. The usual 
interpretation of idolatry as ‘riches, debauchery and desire' 
seems unbiblical. That is a bit of moralizing. Idols are objects 
of worship, and idolatry implies that people still worship 
something. The truth is, we’ve given up worshipping every- 
thing, even idols. In fact, we are absolute nihilists. 

To resume our reflections on the Old Testament. Unlike the 
other oriental religions the faith of the Old Testament is not 
a religion of salvation. Christianity, it is true, has always been 
regarded as a religion of salvation. But isn’t this a cardinal 
error, which divorces Christ from the Old Testament and 
interprets him in the light of the myths of salvation? Of course 
it could be urged that under Egyptian and later, Babylonian 
influence, the idea of salvation became just as prominent in the 
Old Testament — e.g. Deutero-Isaiah. The answer is, the Old 
Testament speaks of historical redemption, i.e. redemption on 
this side of death, whereas the myths of salvation are con- 
cerned to offer men deliverance from death. Israel is redeemed 
out of Egypt in order to live before God on earth. The salva- 
tion myths deny history in the interests of an eternity after 
death. Sheol and Hades are no metaphysical theories, but 
images which imply that the past, while it still exists, has only 
a shadowy existence in the present. It is said that the distinctive 
feature of Christianity is its proclamation of the resurrection 
1 Ndchtliche Stimmen , Haus und Schule Verlag, Berlin. 


153 ] 



MYTHS OF SALVATION 


hope, and that this means the estabhshment of a genuine 
religion of salvation, in the sense of release from this world. 
The emphasis falls upon the far side of the boundary drawn by 
death. But this seems to me to be just the mistake and the 
danger. Salvation means salvation from cares and need, from 
fears and longing, from sin and death into a better world 
beyond the grave. But is this really the distinctive feature of 
Christianity as proclaimed in the Gospels and St. Paul? I am 
sure it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of 
resurrection and a mythological hope is that the Christian hope 
sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way which 
is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament. 

The Christian, unlike the devotees of the salvation myths, 
does not need a last refuge in the eternal from earthly tasks 
and difficulties. But like Christ himself (‘My God, my God, 
why hast thou forsaken me? 5 ) he must drink the earthly cup 
to the lees, and only in his doing that is the crucified and 
risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ. 
This world must not be prematurely written off. In this the 
Old and New Testaments are at one. Myths of salvation arise 
from human experiences of the boundary situation. Christ 
takes hold of a man in the centre of his life. 

You see how my thoughts are constantly revolving round 
the same theme. I must now collect some evidence from the 
New Testament to support my contentions, in the hope of 
sending it on later. 

I read in the paper that you are having tropical heat in 
Italy — you poor man! It reminds me of August 1936. Psalm 
121.6! 


June 30th 1944 

We had a really hot summer’s day here to-day, but I 
could only enjoy it with mixed feelings, for I can’t help think- 
ing of what you are having to go through. I can just imagine 
you sitting down somewhere covered in dust, hot and tired, 
and perhaps without any chance of washing or refreshment. 
No doubt you sometimes almost loathe the sun. And yet you 
know, I should like to feel the full force of it again, burning 



THE HOT COUNTRIES 

the skin and making the whole frame glow, and reminding me 
that I have still got a body. If only I could get tired of the sun, 
instead of books and thoughts ! I should love to have my 
animal existence awakened, not the kind that degrades a man, 
but the sort that delivers him from the stuffiness and spurious- 
ness of a purely intellectual existence and makes him purer and 
happier. I should love not just to see the sun and have only a 
little of it, but to experience it bodily. Modem sun-worship 
is romantic nonsense. It gets intoxicated over the sunrise and 
sunset, it knows something about the power of the sun, but 
does not know it as a reality, but only as a symbol. It cannot 
understand the way the ancients worshipped it as a god: for 
that it is necessary to appreciate not only its light and colour, 
but also its heat. The hot countries, from the Mediterranean 
to India and Central America, have been the cradle of genuine 
culture. The colder lands have lived and thrived on the 
creativeness of the others, and such originality as they have is 
confined to the field of technics, which in the last resort serves 
the material needs of life rather than the mind. Is that why we 
find the hot countries so attractive? And do not such thoughts 
do something to compensate for the discomforts of the heat? 
No doubt you will think that’s neither here nor there and you 
are simply longing to get out of that hell, back to Grunewald 
and a glass of Berlin beer. I can well remember how I longed 
to get out of Italy in June 1923, and I only got my breath back 
again on a day’s ramble in the Black Forest, when it was pouring 
cats and dogs. And there wasn’t a war on then, and all I had to 
do was to enjoy it. I can also remember your horror in August 
1936 when I wanted us to push on to Naples. How are you 
standing up to it now? That time before we could never have 
survived without the ‘expresso’, and K., to my youthful 
annoyance, threw away a lot of money on it. Beside that, we 
took a coach even for the shortest distances, and consumed vast 
quantities of granitos and cassatas on the way. I have just had 
the joyful news that you have written and that you have kept 
your old field post number, from which I conclude you have 
found your old unit again. You can’t imagine how reassured 
I am, relatively, at any rate. 

155] 



GOD EDGED OUT 


A few hours since Uncle Paul 1 called here to make personal 
enquiries about my welfare. I can’t help laughing at the way 
everyone goes about flapping his wings and tries to outdo 
everybody else in undignified ways. There are a few notable 
exceptions, of course. It is painful but many of them are in such 
a state now that they can’t help it. 

Let me carry on a bit with the theological reflections I 
started on a little while ago. I began by saying that God is 
being increasingly edged out of the world, now that it has 
come of age. Knowledge and life are thought to be perfectly 
possible without him. Ever since Kant, he has been relegated 
to the realm beyond experience. 

Theology has endeavoured to produce an apologetic to 
meet this development, engaging in futile rear-guard actions 
against Darwinism, etc. At other times it has accommodated 
itself to this development by restricting God to the so-called 
last questions as a kind of Deus ex machina . God thus became the 
answer to life’s problems, the solution of its distresses and 
conflicts. As a result, if anyone had no such difficulties, if he 
refused to identify himself in sympathy with those who had, 
it was no good trying to win him for God. The only way of 
getting at him was to show that he had all these problems, 
needs and conflicts without being aware of it or owning up to 
it. Existentialist philosophy and pyschotherapy have both been 
pretty clever at this sort of thing. It is then possible to talk to 
a man about God, and methodism can celebrate its triumph. If 
however it does not come off, if a man won’t see that his 
happiness is really damnation, his health sickness, his vigour 
and vitality despair; if he won’t call them what they really are, 
the theologian is at his wits’ end. He must be a hardened 
sinner of a particularly vicious type. If not, he is a case of 
bourgeois complacency, and the one is as far from salvation 
as the other. 

You see, this is the attitude I am contending against. When 
Jesus blessed sinners, they were real sinners, but Jesus did not 
make every man a sinner first. He called them out of their sin, 

1 General Paul von Hase, Commandant of Berlin, who was condemned 
to death a few weeks later by the People’s Court, and executed. 


[156 



CHRIST AND HEALTH 


not into their sin. Of course encounter with Jesus meant the 
reversal of all human values. So it was in the conversion of St. 
Paul, though in his case the knowledge of sin preceded his 
encounter with Jesus. Of course Jesus took to himself the 
dregs of human society, harlots, and publicans, but never 
them alone, for he sought to take to himself man as such. 
Never did Jesus throw any doubt on a man’s health, vigour or 
fortune, regarded in themselves, or look upon them as evil 
fruits. Else why did he heal the sick and restore strength to the 
weak? Jesus claims for himself and the kingdom of God the 
whole of human life in all its manifestations. 

Of course I would be interrupted just now! Let me briefly 
summarize what I am concerned about: it is, how can we 
reclaim for Christ a world which has come of age? 

I can’t write any more to-day, or else the letter will have to 
wait for another week, and I don’t want that to happen. More 
next time ! 

Uncle Paul has been here. He had me fetched down straight 
away, and stayed more than five hours. He sent for four 
bottles of champagne, a unique event in the annals of this 
estabhshment. I would never have dreamt he could be so nice 
and generous. He must have wanted to show the world what 
good terms he is on with me, and what he expects from the 
scrupulous and pedantic M. Such a spirit of independence, 
quite unthinkable in a civilian, was most remarkable. By the 
way, he told me the following story: At St. Privat a wounded 
ensign shouted out, ‘I am wounded, long live the King!’ 
Whereupon General von Lowenfeld, who was also wounded, 
retorted: ‘Hold your tongue: we die here in silence.’ I am 
curious to know what will be the outcome of his visit — I 
mean, what the others will think about it. 

Well now, good-bye, and forgive me for breaking off. But 
I think you would sooner have this than nothing at all. I hope 
we shall all be together again early in the autumn. 

July 1st 1944 

Seven years ago to-day we were together at Martin’s . 1 

1 The day Martin Niemdller was arrested. 


157 ] 



A REVOLT OF INFERIORITY 


July Sth 1944 

A short time ago I sent you a letter containing some very 
theoretical philosophizing on the subject of heat. During the 
past few days I’ve had a taste of it myself, and I’m feeling as 
though I were in an oven. I am wearing only a shirt I bought 
one day with you and a pair of shorts. But I don’t complain 
about it, for I can imagine how much worse it must be for 
you, and how frivolous my remarks on the subject must 
have seemed to you. So let me try and squeeze a few thoughts 
out of my sweating brain, and let you have them. Who knows, 
perhaps we shan’t have to write much longer! The other day 
I came across a wonderful phrase in Euripides, in a scene of 
reunion after long absence: ‘So then, to meet again is a god.’ 
Now a few more thoughts on our theme. Marshalling the 
biblical evidence requires more lucidity and concentration than 
I am capable of at the moment. Let’s wait a few more days 
until its gets cooler. I haven’t forgotten I owe you something 
about the non-religious interpretation of biblical terminology. 
But let me start to-day with a few prehminary observations. 

When God was driven out of the world, and from the public 
side of human life, an attempt was made to retain him at least 
in the sphere of the ‘personal’, the ‘inner life’, the private life. 
And since every man still has a private sphere, it was thought 
that he was most vulnerable at this point. The secrets known 
by a man’s valet, that is, to put it crudely, the area of his 
intimate life — from prayer to his sexual life — have become the 
hunting ground of modem psychotherapists. In this way they 
resemble, though quite involuntarily, the dirtiest gutter journ- 
alists. Think of the newspapers which specialize in bringing to 
light the most intimate details about prominent people. They 
practise social, financial and political blackmail on their 
victims: the psychotherapists practise religious blackmail. 
Forgive me, but I cannot say less about them. 

From the sociological point of view this is a revolution from 
below, a revolt of inferiority. Just as the vulgar mentality is 
never satisfied until it has seen some highly placed personage 
in his bathing attire, or in other compromising situations, so 

[158 



PRIESTLY SNUFFING 


it is here. There is a kind of malicious satisfaction in knowing 
that everyone has his weaknesses and nakednesses. In my con- 
tacts with the outcasts of society, its pariahs, I have often 
noticed how mistrust is the dominant motive in their judge- 
ments of other people. Every act of a person of high repute, 
be it never so altruistic, is suspected from the outset. Incident- 
ally, I find such outcasts in all ranks of society. In a flower 
garden they grub around for the dung on which the flowers 
grow. The less responsible a man’s life, the more easily he 
falls a victim to this attitude. 

This irresponsibility and absence of bonds has its counterpart 
among the clergy in what I should call the ‘priestly’ snuffing 
around in the sins of men in order to catch them out. It is as 
though a beautiful house could only be known after a cobweb 
had been found in the furthermost comer of the cellar, or as 
though a good play could only be appreciated after one had 
seen how the actors behave off-stage. It is the same kind of 
thing you find in the novels of the last fifty years, which think 
they have only depicted their characters 'properly when they 
have described them in bed, or in films where it is thought 
necessary to include undressing scenes. What is clothed, veiled, 
pure and chaste is considered to be deceitful, disguised and 
impure, and in fact only shows the impurity of the writers 
themselves. Mistrust and suspicion as the basic attitude of men 
is characteristic of the revolt of inferiority. 

From the theological point of view the error is twofold. 
First, it is thought that a man can be addressed as a sinner only 
after his weaknesses and meannesses have been spied out. 
Second, it is thought that man’s essential nature consists of his 
inmost and most intimate background, and that is defined as 
his ‘interior life’; and it is in these secret human places that God 
is now to have his domain! 

On the first point it must be said that man is certainly a 
sinner, but not mean or common, not by a long chalk. To put 
the matter in the most banal way, are Goethe or Napoleon 
sinners because they were not always faithful husbands? It is 
not the sins of weakness, but the sins of strength, which matter 
here. It is not in the least necessary to spy out things. The 

159 ] 



THE DISCOVERY OF INWARDNESS 

Bible never does so. (Sins of strength: in the genius, hybris, in 
the peasant, the breaking of the order of life — is the Decalogue 
a peasant ethic? — in the bourgeois, fear of free responsibility. 
Is this correct?) 

On the second point it must be said that the Bible does not 
recognize our distinction of outer and inner. And why should 
it? It is always concerned with anthrcpos teleios, the whole man, 
even where, as in the Sermon on the Mount, the decalogue is 
pressed home to refer to inward disposition. It is quite un- 
biblical to suppose that a ‘good intention’ is enough. What 
matters is the whole good. The discovery of inwardness, 
so-called, derives from the Renaissance, from Petrarch perhaps. 
The ‘heart’ in the biblical sense is not the inward life, but the 
whole man in relation to God. The view that man lives just 
as much from outwards to inwards as from inwards to out- 
wards is poles apart from the view that his essential nature is 
to be understood from his intimate background. 

This is why I am so anxious that God should not be relegated 
to some last secret place, but that we should frankly recognize 
that the world and men have come of age, that we should not 
speak ill of man in his worldliness, but confront him with 
God at his strongest point, that we should give up all our 
clerical subterfuges, and our regarding of psychotherapy and 
existentialism as precursors of God. The importunity of these 
people is far too unaristocratic for the Word of God to ally 
itself with them. The Word of God is far removed from this 
revolt of mistrust, this revolt from below. But it reigns. 

It’s high time I said something concrete on the worldly inter- 
pretation of the terminology of the Bible, but it’s too hot ! 

If you want to send extracts from my letters to by all 

means do so, but I would never suggest it myself. When I 
write to you I am only thinking aloud in order to clarify my 
thoughts. You are the only person I can do that with. But 
please yourself. We shall soon have to be thinking of our 
travels together in 1940 and of my last sermon. 1 

1 This is a code reference to East Prussia, where Hitler’s headquarters 
were situated and where the attempt on his life was shortly to be made 
(20th July). 


[160 



CARL ORFF 


July gth. Must close for now. Tm sure we shall be meeting 
again soon. 


July 16th ig44 

I heard yesterday you had been moved again. I hope I 
shall soon hear how you are getting on. The historic atmos- 
phere 1 sounds attractive enough. Ten years ago we should 
hardly have understood how the squabble between Emperor 
and Pope over the crozier and ring could lead to a first class 
political struggle. After all, were they not adiaphora ? Recent 
experience has taught us otherwise. Whether Henry IV’s 
pilgrimage to Canossa was honest or diplomatic, that event of 
1077 is one the memory of which has burnt itself deeply in 
European history. It was much more effective than the 
Concordat of Worms, which brought the controversy to a 
formal conclusion in the way Henry desired. We were taught 
at school that the whole business was a European disaster, 
whereas in point of fact it is the foundation of that freedom 
of thought which has made Europe great. 

There is little to report about myself. The other day I heard 
on the wireless some excerpts from the operas of Carl Orff 
(Carmina Burana and others). I thought they were first rate, 
so fresh, so clear, and so serene. He has also produced an 
orchestral version of Monteverdi. Did you know that? I also 
heard a Concerto Grosso by Handel, and once more I was 
astounded at the effectiveness with which he uses an extended 
phrase as he does in the Largo. There was something so com- 
forting about it. Handel seems to pay far more attention to his 
audience than Bach does; he is more concerned about the 
effect of his music. That is why he so often has a fa^ade-like 
effect. There is a deliberate purpose behind his music, unlike 
that of Bach. Is that not so? 

I find the House oj the Dead extremely interesting. It’s striking 
what sympathy those outside have for its inhabitants — so free 
from moral scruples. Is not this amorality, the product of 
religiosity, perhaps an essential trait of this people? And may 

1 In the neighbourhood of Canossa. 

i6r] 



AUTONOMY 


it not provide a clue to more recent events? By the way I am 
doing as much writing and composing as much poetry as my 
strength allows. I have already told you that I sometimes get a 
chance of an evening to work as we used to in earlier days. 1 
It is a source of profit and enjoyment. Otherwise there is 
nothing more to report. ... I am glad K. is getting on so well. 
For a long time he was so depressed. 2 But I’m sure all his 
worries will soon he over. I very much hope so for his own 
sake, as well as for the whole family’s. 

If you have to preach a sermon in the near future, I should 
suggest such texts as: Psalms 62.2; 119.94a; 42.6: Jeremiah 
31.3: Isaiah 41.10; 43.1: Matthew 28.20b, and confine myself 
to a few simple but vital thoughts. One has to five in a parish 
for a long time to see how Christ is ‘being formed’ in it 
(Galatians 4.19), and that is pre-eminently true of the sort of 
parish you are likely to have. 

Now a few more thoughts on our theme. I find it’s very 
slow going trying to work out a non-religious interpretation 
of biblical terminology, and it’s a far bigger job than I can 
manage at the moment. On the historical side I should say 
there is one great development which leads to the idea of the 
autonomy of the world. In theology it is first discernible in 
Lord Herbert of Cherbury, with his assertion that reason is 
the sufficient instrument of religious knowledge. In ethics it 
first appears in Montaigne and Bodin with their substitution 
of moral principles for the ten commandments. In politics, 
Machiavelli, who emancipates politics from the tutelage of 
morality, and founds the doctrine of ‘reasons of state’. Later, 
and very differently, though like Machiavelli tending towards 
the autonomy of human society, comes Grotius, with his inter- 
national law as the law of nature, a law which would still be 
valid, etsi deus non daretur. The process is completed in philo- 
sophy. On the one hand we have the deism of Descartes, who 
holds that the world is a mechanism which runs on its own 
without any intervention of God. On the other hand there is 
the pantheism of Spinoza, with its identification of God with 

1 Listening to foreign broadcasts. 

2 B. is referring here to the resistance movement. 

[ 1 62 



NO ROOM FOR GOD? 


nature. In the last resort Kant is a deist, Fichte and Hegel 
pantheists. All along the line there is a growing tendency to 
assert the autonomy of man and the world. 

In natural science the process seems to start with Nicolas of 
Cusa and Giordano Bruno with their ‘heretical’ doctrine of the 
infinity of space. The classical cosmos was finite, like the 
created world of the middle ages. An infinite universe, how- 
ever it be conceived, is self-subsisting etsi deus non daretur . It is 
true that modern physics is not so sure as it was about the 
infinity of the universe, but it has not returned to the earlier 
conceptions of its finitude. 

There is no longer any need for God as a working hypothesis, 
whether in morals, politics or science. Nor is there any need 
for such a God in religion or philosophy (Feuerbach). In the 
name of intellectual honesty these working hypotheses should 
be dropped or dispensed with as far as possible. A scientist or 
physician who seeks to provide edification is a hybrid. 

At this point nervous souls start asking what room there is 
left for God now. And being ignorant of the answer they write 
off the whole development which has brought them to tills 
pass. As I said in an earlier letter, various emergency exits have 
been devised to deal with this situation. To them must be 
added the salto mortale back to the Middle Ages, the fundamental 
principle of which however is heteronomy in the form of 
clericalism. But that is a counsel of despair, which can be 
purchased only at the cost of intellectual sincerity. It reminds 
one of the song: 

Ids a long way back to the land of childhood , 

But if only I knew the way! 

There isn’t any such way, at any rate not at the cost of deliber- 
ately abandoning our intellectual sincerity. The only way is 
that of Matthew 18.3, i.e. through repentance, through 
ultimate honesty. And the only way to be honest is to recog- 
nize that we have to live in the world etsi deus non daretur . And 
this is just what we do see — before God! So our coming of age 
forces us to a true recognition of our situation vis a vis God. 
163] 



THE POWERLESSNESS OF GOD 


God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get 
along very well without him. The God who is with us is the 
God who forsakes us (Mark 15.34). The God who makes us 
live in this world without using him as a working hypothesis 
is the God before whom we are ever standing. Before God and 
with him we live without God. God allows himself to be 
edged out of the world and on to the cross. God is weak and 
powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only 
way, in which he can be with us and help us. Matthew 8.17 
makes it crystal clear that it is not by his omnipotence that 
Christ helps us, but by his weakness and suffering. 

This is the decisive difference between Christianity and all 
religions. Man's religiosity makes him look in his distress to 
the power of God in the world; he uses God as a Deus ex 
machina . The Bible however directs him to the powerlessness 
and suffering of God; only a suffering God can help. To -this 
extent we may say that the process we have described by which 
the world came of age was an abandonment of a false concep- 
tion of God, and a clearing of the decks for the God of the 
Bible, who conquers power and space in the world by his 
weakness. This must be the starting point for our ‘worldly’ 
interpretation. 


[164 



WHO AM I? 


Who am I? They often tell me 
I stepped from my cell's confinement 
Calmly , cheerfully, firmly , 

Like a squire from his country-house . 

Who am I? They often tell me 
I used to speak to my warders 
Freely and friendly and clearly , 

As though it were mine to command . 

Who am I? They also tell me 
I bore the days of misfortune 
Equably , smilingly, proudly, 

Like one accustomed to win . 

Am I then really all that which other men tell of? 

Or am I only what I myself know of myself? 

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage. 

Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, 
Yearning jor colours, for flowers, for the voices of birds, 

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighbourliness, 

Tossing in expectation of great events, 

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, 

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making. 

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all? 

Who am I? This or the other? 

Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another? 

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, 

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? 

Or is something within me still like a beaten army. 

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved? 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine . 
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine! 



TO BE A CHRISTIAN 


July 18th 1944 

I wonder how many of our letters have been destroyed in 
the raids on Munich? Did you get the one containing the two 
poems (Who am I? and Christians and Unbelievers )? It was just 
sent off that evening, and it also contained a few introductory 
remarks on our theological theme. The poem about Christians 
and Unbelievers embodies an idea you will recognize: ‘Chris- 
tians range themselves with God in his suffering; that is what 
distinguishes them from the heathen/ As Jesus asked in 
Gethsemane, ‘Could ye not watch with me one hour?’ That 
is the exact opposite of what the religious man expects from 
God. Man is challenged to participate in the sufferings of God 
at the hands of a godless world. 

He must therefore plunge himself into the life of a godless 
world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with 
a veneer of religion or trying to transfigure it. He must live a 
‘worldly’ life and so participate in the suffering of God. He 
may live a worldly Hfe as one emancipated from all false 
religions and obligations. To be a Christian does not mean to be 
religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form 
of ascetism (as a sinner, a penitent or a saint), but to be a man. 
It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, 
but participation in the suffering of God in the Hfe of the world. 

This is metanoia . It is not in the first instance bothering 
about one’s own needs, problems, sins, and fears, but allowing 
oneself to be caught up in the way of Christ, into the Messianic 
event, and thus fulfilling Isaiah 53. Therefore, ‘beHeve in the 
Gospel’, or in the words of St. John the Baptist, ‘Behold the 
lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world/ (By 
the way, Jeremias has recently suggested that in Aramaic the 
word for ‘lamb’ could also mean ‘servant’ — very appropriate, 
in view of Isaiah 53). This being caught up into the 
Messianic suffering of God in Jesus Christ takes a variety of 
forms in the New Testament. It appears in the call to disciple- 
ship, in Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners, in conversions in 
the narrower sense of the word (e.g. Zacchaeus), in the act 
of the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7), an act which she 

[166 



FAITH AND ASCETICISM 


performed without any specific confession of sin, in the healing 
of the sick (Matthew 8.17, see above), in Jesus’ acceptance of 
the children. The shepherds, like the wise men from the east, 
stand at the crib, not as converted sinners, but because they 
were drawn to the crib by the star just as they were. The 
centurion of Capernaum (who does not make any confession 
of sin) is held up by Jesus as a model of faith (cf. Jairus). Jesus 
loves the rich young man. The eunuch (Acts 8), Cornelius 
(Acts 10) are anything but ‘existences over the abyss’. 
Nathanael is an Israelite without guile (John 147). Finally, 
Joseph of Arimathaea and the women at the tomb. All that is 
common between them is their participation in the suffering 
of God in Christ. That is their faith. There is nothing of 
religious asceticism here. The religious act is always something 
partial, faith is always something whole, an act involving the 
whole life. Jesus does not call men to a new religion, but to 
life. What is the nature of that life, that participation in the 
powerlessness of God in the world? More about that next 
time, I hope. 

Just one more point for to-day. When we speak of God in a 
non-religious way, we must not gloss over the ungodliness of 
the world, but expose it in a new light. Now that it has come 
of age, the world is more godless, and perhaps it is for that 
very reason nearer to God than ever before. 

Forgive me putting it all so clumsily and badly. ... We 
have to get up nearly every night at 1.30, which is not very 
good for work like this. 

CHRISTIANS AND UNBELIEVERS 

Men go to God when they are sore bestead , 

Pray to him for succour, for his peace, for bread , 

For mercy for them sick, sinning or dead: 

All men do so, Christian and unbelieving . 

Men go to God when he is sore bestead, 

Find him poor and scorned , without shelter or bread. 

Whelmed under weight of the wicked , the weak, the dead: 
Christians stand by God in his hour of grieving. 

167] 



‘WORLDLINESS’ OF CHRISTIANITY 

God goeth to every man when sore bestead , 

Feedeth body and spirit with his bread , 

For Christians, heathens alike he hangeth dead: 

And both alike forgiving. 

July 2 1st 1944 1 

All I want to do to-day is to send you a short greeting. I 
expect you are often thinking about us, and you are always 
pleased to hear we are still alive, even if we lay aside our 
theological discussion for the moment. It’s true these theo- 
logical problems are always occupying my mind, but there 
are times when I am just content to live the life of faith with- 
out worrying about its problems. In such moods I take a 
simple pleasure in the text of the day, and yesterday’s and 
to-day’s were particularly good (July 20th: Psalm 20.8 : Romans 
8.31; 21.7: Psalm 23.1: John 10.24). Then I go back to Paul 
Gerhardt’s wonderful hymns, which never pall. 

During the last year or so I have come to appreciate the 
‘worldliness’ of Christianity as never before. The Christian is 
not a homo religiosus, but a man, pure and simple, just as Jesus 
was man, compared with John the Baptist anyhow. I don’t 
mean the shallow this-worldliness of the enlightened, of the 
busy, the comfortable or the lascivious. It’s something much 
more profound than that, something in which the knowledge 
of death and resurrection is ever present. I believe Luther lived 
a this-worldly life in this sense. I remember talking to a young 
French pastor at A. thirteen years ago. We were discussing what 
our real purpose was in life. He said he would like to become 
a saint. I think it is quite likely he did become one. At the 
time I was very much impressed, though I disagreed with him, 
and said I should prefer to have faith, or words to that effect. 
For a long time I did not realize how far we were apart. I 
thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or 
something like it. It was in this phase that I wrote The Cost of 
Discipleship . To-day I can see the dangers of this book, though 
I am prepared to stand by what I wrote. 

1 Written after the news of the failure of the attempt to assassinate 
Hitler on the 20th July. 

[168 



REPENTANCE 


Later I discovered and am still discovering up to this very 
moment that it is only by living completely in this world that 
one learns to believe. One must abandon every attempt to 
make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted 
sinner, a churchman (the priestly type, so-called!) a righteous 
man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. This 
is what I mean by worldliness — taking life in one’s stride, with 
all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experi- 
ences and helplessness. It is in such a life that we throw our- 
selves utterly in the arms of God and participate in his sufferings 
in the world and watch with Christ in Gethsemane. That is 
faith, that is metanoia , and that is what makes a man and a 
Christian (cf. Jeremiah 45). How can success make us arrogant 
or failure lead us astray, when we participate in the sufferings 
of God by living in this world? 

I think you get my meaning, though I put it so briefly. I am 
glad I have been able to learn it, and I know I could only have 
done so along the road I have travelled. So I am grateful and 
content with the past and the present. Perhaps you are surprised 
at the personal tone of this letter, but if for once I want to talk 
like this, to whom else should I say it? May God in his mercy 
lead us through these times. But above all may he lead us to 
himself! 

I was delighted to hear from you, and glad you aren’t 
finding it too hot. There must still be many letters from me 
on the way. Did we travel more or less along that way in 
1936? 

Good-bye. Take care of yourself and don’t lose hope — we 
shall all meet again soon! 



STATIONS ON THE ROAD 
TO FREEDOM 


Discipline 

If you would find freedom, learn above all to discipline your 
senses and your soul. Be not led hither and thither by your 
desires and your members. Keep your spirit and your body 
chaste, wholly subject to you, and obediently seeking the goal 
that is set before you. None can learn the secret of freedom, 
save by discipline. 


Action 

To do and dare — not what you would, but what is right. 
Never to hesitate over what is within your power, but boldly 
to grasp what lies before you. Not in the flight of fancy, but 
only in the deed there is freedom. Away with timidity and 
reluctance! Out into the storm of event, sustained only by the 
commandment of God and your faith, and freedom will receive 
your spirit with exultation. 

Suffering 

O wondrous change! Those hands, once so strong and 
active, have now been bound. Helpless and forlorn, you see 
the end of your deed. Yet with a sigh of relief you resign 
your cause to a stronger hand, and are content to do so. For 
one brief moment you enjoyed the bliss of freedom, only to 
give it back to God, that he might perfect it in glory. 

Death 

Come now, Queen of the feasts on the road to eternal 
freedom! O death, cast off the grievous chains and lay low the 
thick walls of our mortal body and our blinded soul, that at 
last we may behold what here we have failed to see. O freedom, 
long have we sought thee in discipline and in action and in 
suffering. Dying, we behold thee now, and see thee in the face 
of God. 



THE ROAD TO FREEDOM 


Dear E . 

I wrote these lines in a few hours this evening. I’m afraid, 
they are very unpolished, but perhaps you will enjoy them all 
the same. Please accept them as a birthday present. 

From yours ever, 

Dietrich 

As I read these lines over in the early morning I see they 
need complete revision, but I’m still sending them to you as 
they are. After all, I don’t pretend to be a poet! 


171] 



DOSTOIEVSKY 


July 25th 1944 

I like to take every chance of writing to you, for I think 
you are always pleased to get a line from me. There is nothing 
particular to report about myself. . . . During the last few 
nights it has been our turn again in this district. While the 
bombs come crashing down, I always think how trivial it all 
is compared with what you are having to go through out 
there. I often get very cross at the way people behave here 
during the raids. How little do they think what others are 
going through! With us it’s all over in a few minutes. I have 
now finished the memoirs from The House of the Dead , by 
Dostoievsky. It contains much that is brilliant and sound. I am 
pondering a good deal on his contention (by no means a 
passing phase) that man cannot live without hope, and men 
who are destitute of hope often become wild and wicked. It 
doesn’t matter if that hope be an illusion. It’s true that the 
importance of illusion in human life is not to be under- 
estimated, but for the Christian it is essential to have a hope 
which is based on solid foundations. However potent a force 
illusion may be, the influence of a sure and certain hope is 
infinitely greater, and the lives of those who possess it are 
invincible. 'Christ our hope’ — this Pauline formula is our life’s 
inspiration. 

They have just come to fetch me for my exercise, but I’m 
finishing this letter to make sure it catches the post. Good-bye. 
I think of you every day. Your true and grateful friend. . . . 

July 27th 1944 

It takes a weight off the mind to have plenty to do, or 
so it would seem to me. Your summary of our theological 
theme is a model of lucidity and simplicity. The problem of 
natural religion is also that of unconscious Christianity, a 
subject with which I am more and more concerned. Lutheran 
dogmatics distinguishes between Jides directa and Jides reflexa , 
especially in connexion with infant baptism. I should not be at 
all surprised if we have put our finger on a very far-reaching 
problem here. 

[172 



BLESSING 


July 28th 1944 

... So you think the Bible has very little to say about 
health, fortune, vigour, etc. That is certainly not true of the 
Old Testament. The intermediate theological category 
between God and human fortune is, it seems to me, that of 
blessing. There is indeed no concern for fortune in the Old 
Testament, but there is a concern for the blessing of God, which 
includes all earthly blessings as well. In this blessing the whole 
of earthly life is claimed for God, and all his promises are 
included in it. It would be natural to suppose that as usual the 
New Testament spiritualizes the teaching of the Old at this 
point, and that therefore the Old Testament blessing is super- 
seded in the New. But surely it is hardly accidental that sick- 
ness and death are mentioned in connexion with the misuse of 
the Lord’s Supper (the cup of blessing, I Corinthians 10.16: 

I Coronthians 11.30), or that Jesus is said to restore men to 
health, and that while his disciples were with him they are 
said to lack nothing’. Is it right therefore to set the Old 
Testament blessing against the cross? That is what Kierkegaard 
did; but the trouble is, it makes the cross, or suffering at any 
rate, an abstract principle. And this is just what gives rise to an 
unhealthy asceticism, and deprives suffering of its element of 
contingency upon a divine ordinance. It is true that in the Old 
Testament the recipient of a blessing has to endure much 
suffering into the bargain (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and 
Joseph), but there is never any idea that fortune and suffering, 
blessing and cross are mutually exclusive and contradictory, 
any more than in the New Testament. The only difference 
between the two Testaments at this point is that in the Old the 
blessing also includes the cross, and in the New the cross also 
includes the blessing. 

To turn to a different point, not only action, but also suffer- 
ing is a way to freedom. The deliverance consists in placing 
our cause unreservedly in the hands of God. Whether our 
deeds are wrought in faith or not depends on our realization 
that suffering is the extension of action and the perfection of 
freedom. That, to my mind, is very important and very 
comforting. 

173 ] 



HANS VON D OHNANYI 


I am getting on all right, and there’s nothing to report about 
the family either. Hans 1 is definitely down with diphtheria, 
but there seems to be good hope for him. Good-bye, and keep 
up your spirits as we are doing. And don’t forget — we shall 
meet again soon! 

1 Hans von Dohnanyi, also in prison since April 5 th, 1943. 



MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS 

Giordano Bruno: ‘There is something fiightening about the 
sight of a friend: no enemy can be so terrifying as he/ What 
do you make of that? I am trying hard, but I really can’t make 
head or tail of it. Is he thinking of the dangers inseparable from 
close intimacy, as in the case of Judas? 

Spinoza: ‘Emotion cannot be expelled by reason, but only by 
a stronger emotion/ 

★ ★ ★ 

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he 
can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision 
about them. The weak: are always forced to decide between 
alternatives they have not chosen themselves. 

★ ★ ★ 

We are so constituted that we always find perfection boring. 
Whether it has always been so I do not know. But it is the 
only way I can explain why I care so little for Raphael or 
Dante’s Paradise . Similarly, I find everlasting ice or everlasting 
blue sky equally unattractive. I look for perfection in the 
human, the living and the earthly, and therefore neither in the 
Apolline nor the Dionysian nor the Faustian. I always prefer a 
moderate, temperate climate. 

★ ★ * 

The transcendent is not infinitely remote, but close at hand. 

* ★ ★ 

Absolute seriousness is not without a dose of humour. 

★ ★ ★ 

The essence of chastity is not the suppression of lust, but 

the total orientation of one’s life towards a goal. Without such 
a goal, chastity is bound to become ridiculous. Chastity is the 
sine qua non of lucidity and concentration. 

★ ★ ★ 


175] 



MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS 

Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom. 

* * * 

Please excuse these pompous pieces of wisdom. They are 
fragments of conversations that have never taken place, and to 
that extent they belong to you. When you are forced as I am 
to live entirely in your thoughts, the silliest things come to 
your mind: — I mean, jotting down the odd thoughts that 
come into your head. 


[i7<5 



OPEN AIR 


August 3rd 1944 

... I wonder whether you will be on the move again soon? 
And where to? I should like to know whether you have read 
my poems. You must read the very long one in rhyme, 
Nachtliche Stimmen in Tegel. I am enclosing the outline of a 
book I have planned. I don’t know whether you will be able 
to make anything of it, but I believe you already have some 
idea what I am driving at. I only hope I shall be given the 
peace and strength to finish it. The Church must get out of 
her stagnation. We must move out again into the open air of 
intellectual discussion with the world, and risk shocking people 
if we are to cut any ice. I feel obliged to tackle this question 
myself as one who, though a ‘modem’ theologian, is still 
aware of the debt we owe to liberal theology. There will not be 
many of the younger men who combine both trends in them- 
selves. What a lot I could do with your help! But even when 
we have talked things over and clarified our minds, we still 
need to pray, for it is only in the spirit of prayer that a work 
like this can be begun and carried through. 


177 ] 



OUTLINE FOR A BOOK 

I should like to write a book not more than 100 pages long, 
and with three chapters. 

1. A Stocktaking of Christianity. 

2. The Real Meaning of the Christian Faith. 

3. Conclusions. 

Chapter 1 to deal with: 

(a) The coming of age of humanity (along the lines already 
suggested) . The insuring of life against accident, ill-fortune. If 
eHmination of danger impossible, at least its mimmization. 
Insurance (which although it thrives upon accidents, seeks to 
mitigate their effects) a western phenomenon. The goal, to be 
independent of nature. Nature formerly conquered by 
spiritual means, with us by technical organization of various 
kinds. Our immediate environment not nature, as formerly, 
but organization. But this immunity produces a new crop 
of dangers, i.e. the very organization. 

Consequently there is a need for spiritual vitality. What 
protection is there against the danger of organization? Man is 
once more faced with the problem of himself. He can cope 
with every danger except the danger of human nature itself. 
In the last resort it all turns upon man. 

(i b ) The decay of religion in a world that has come of age. 
‘God’ as a working hypothesis, as a stop-gap for our embar- 
rassments, now superfluous (as already intimated). 

(c) The Protestant Church. Pietism as the last attempt to 
maintain evangelical Christianity as a religion. Lutheran 
orthodoxy — the attempt to rescue the Church as an institution 
for salvation. The Confessing Church and the theology of 
revelation. A 60s noi ttou onrco over against the world, involving 
a ‘factual’ interest in Christianity. Art and science seeking for 
a foundation. The over-all achievement of the Confessing 
Church: championing ecclesiastical interests, but little personal 
faith in Jesus Christ. ‘Jesus’ disappearing from sight. Socio- 
logically, no effect on the masses — interest confined to the 

[178 



RELATION TO GOD 


upper and lower middle classes. Incubus of traditional vocabu- 
lary, difficult to understand. The decisive factor: the Church 
on the defensive. Unwillingness to take risks in the service of 
humanity. 

(d) Public morals — as evidenced by sexual behaviour. 
Chapter 2 

(a) ‘Worldliness’ and God. 

(i b ) What do we mean by 4 God’? Not in the first place an 
abstract belief in his omnipotence, etc. That is not a genuine 
experience of God, but a partial extension of the world. 
Encounter with Jesus Christ, implying a complete orientation 
of human being in the experience of Jesus as one whose only 
concern is for others. This concern of Jesus for others the 
experience of transcendence. This freedom from self, main- 
tained to the point of death, the sole ground of his omnipo- 
tence, ominiscience and ubiquity. Faith is participation in this 
Being of Jesus (incarnation, cross and resurrection). Our rela- 
tion to God not a religious relationship to a supreme Being, 
absolute in power and goodness, which is a spurious concep- 
tion of transcendence, but a new life for others, through par- 
ticipation in the Being of God. The transcendence consists not 
in tasks beyond our scope and power, but in the nearest thing 
to hand. God in human form, not, as in other religions, in 
animal form — the monstrous, chaotic, remote and terrifying — 
nor yet in abstract form— the absolute, metaphysical, infinite, 
etc. — nor yet in the Greek divine-human of autonomous man, 
but man existing for others, and hence the Crucified. A life 
based on the transcendent. 

(c) This as the starting point for the reinterpretation of 
biblical terminology. (Creation, fall, atonement, repentance, 
faith, the new life, the last things.) 

(d) Cultus. (Details to follow later, in particular on cultus 
and religion.) 

(e) What do we really believe? I mean, believe in such a way 
as to stake our whole lives upon it? The problem of the 
Apostles’ Creed? 'What must I believe?’ the wrong question. 
Antiquated controversies, especially those between the different 

179 ] 



CLERICALISM 


confessions. The Lutheran versus Reformed, and to some extent, 
the Catholic versus Protestant controversy. These divisions 
may at any time be revived with passion, but they no longer 
carry real conviction. Impossible to prove this, but necessary 
to take the bull by the horns. All we can prove is that the faith 
of the Bible and Christianity does not stand or fall by these 
issues. Barth and the Confessing Church have encouraged us 
to entrench ourselves behind the ‘faith of the Church’, anc 
evade the honest question, what is our real and personal 
belief ? Hence lack of fresh air, even in the Confessing Church. 
To say, ‘It’s the Church’s faith, not mine’, can be a clericalist 
subterfuge, and outsiders always regard it as such. Much the 
same applies to the suggestion of the dialectical theologians 
that we have no control over our faith, and so it is impossible 
for us to say what we do believe. There may be a place for 
such considerations, but they do not release us from the duty 
of being honest with ourselves. We cannot, like the Catholics, 
identify ourselves tout court with the Church. (This incidentally 
explains the popular complaint about Catholic insincerity.) 
Well then, what do we really believe? Answer, see (b), (c) 
and (d). 

Chapter 3 
Consequences 

The Church is her true self only when she exists for 
humanity. As a fresh start she should give away all her endow- 
ments to the poor and needy. The clergy should live solely 
on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly 
engage in some secular calling. She must take her part in the 
social life of the world, not lording it over men, but helping 
and serving them. She must tell men, whatever their calling, 
what it means to live in Christ, to exist for others. And in 
particular, our own Church will have to take a strong line 
with the blasphemies of hybris , power-worship, envy and 
humbug, for these are the roots of evil. She wall have to speak 
of moderation, purity, confidence, loyalty, steadfastness, 
patience, discipline, humility, content and modesty. She must 
not underestimate the importance of human example, which 

[180 



REVISING THE CREEDS 


has its origin in the humanity of Jesus, and which is so impor- 
tant in the teaching of St. Paul. It is not abstract argument, but 
concrete example which gives her word emphasis and power. 
I hope to take up later this subject of example, and its place 
in the New Testament. It is something we have well-nigh for- 
gotten. Further: the question of revising the creeds (the 
Apostles’ Creed). Revision of Christian apologetics. Reform 
of the training for the ministry and the pattern of clerical life. 

All this is very crude and sketchy, but there are certain 
things I want to say simply and clearly, things which we so 
often prefer to ignore. Whether I shall succeed or not is another 
matter, and I shall certainly find it difficult without your help. 
But I hope in this way to do something for the sake of the 
Church of the future. 


181] 



MEMORY 


August loth 1944 

I can well understand, it when you say you are getting 
tired of living on memory. But gratitude is a force which 
constantly rekindles memory. It is just at such times as these 
that one should make a special point of thanksgiving in one’s 
prayers. Above all, we should avoid getting absorbed in the 
present moment, and foster that peace of mind which springs 
from noble thoughts, measuring all other things by them. 
Alas, there are so few who are capable of it, and that is what 
makes it so hard to put up with our fellow human-beings. It is 
weakness rather than wickedness that degrades a man, and it 
needs profound sympathy to put up with that. But all the 
time God still reigns in heaven. 

I am now working on those three chapters I told you about. 
You are quite right, intellectual discovery is one of the joys of 
life, and that is why I fmd this work of mine so enthralling. . . . 
To feel that one counts for something with other people is one 
of the joys of life. What matters here is not how many friends 
we have, but how deeply we are attached to them. After all, 
personal relationships count for more than anything else. 
That is why the ‘successful man’ of the modem world cuts so 
little ice — and the same goes for the demi-gods and lunatics 
who know nothing about personal relationships. God makes 
use of us in his dealings with other people. All else is closely 
akin to hybris . Of course it is possible to cultivate personal 
relationships and to try to mean something to other people in 
all too conscious a way, as I happened to discover recently in 
the letters of Gabriel von Bulow-Humboldt. It can lead to the 
cult of the ‘human’, which is a gross exaggeration. What I 
mean, however, is the simple fact that people are more 
important in life than anything else. Of course that does not 
mean that we should belittle the world of things or success in 
that sphere. But what is the best book or picture or house, or 
any property to me compared with my wife, my parents, or 
my friend? One can of course speak like that only if one has 
found others in one’s life. For many to-day man is just a part 
of the world of things; the experience of the human simply 

[182 



MEDIOCRITY 


eludes them. Fortunately for us, we have enjoyed this experi- 
ence abundantly. 

I have often noticed how much depends on stretching our- 
selves to the limit. Many people are spoilt by being satisfied 
with mediocrity. It may mean that they get to the top more 
quickly, for they have fewer inhibitions to overcome. I have 
found it one of the most potent educative factors in our 
family that we have had so many inhibitions to overcome (I 
mean, such obstacles as lack of relevance, clarity, naturalness, 
tact, simplicity, etc.) before we can speak freely of what is in 
our minds. I believe you found it so with us at first. It 
often takes a long time to leap over such hurdles as these, and 
one often feels one could have achieved success with greater 
ease and less cost if these obstacles could have been avoided. . . . 
God does not give us everything we want, but he does fulfil 
his promises, i.e. he still remains Lord of the earth and still 
preserves his Church, constantly renewing our faith and not 
laying on us more than we can bear, gladdening us with his 
nearness and help, hearing our prayers and leading us along 
the best and straightest road to himself. In this way, God 
creates in us praise for himself. 


August 2 ist 1944 

Once more I have taken up the texts (Numbers 11.23: 
II Corinthians 1.20) and meditated upon them for a space. 
The key to everything is the ‘in him’. All that we rightly 
expect from God and pray for is to be found in Jesus Christ. 
The God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with all that we, 
in our human way, think he can and ought to do. We must 
persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, suffer- 
ings and death of Jesus in order to leam what God promises 
and what he fulfils. One thing is certain: we must always live 
close to the presence of God, for that is newness of life; and 
then nothing is impossible for all things are possible with God; 
no earthly power can touch us without his will, and danger can 
only drive us closer to him. We can claim nothing for our- 
selves, and yet we may pray for everything. Our joy is hidden 



JESUS AND LIFE 

in suffering, our life in death. But all through we are sustained 
in a wondrous fellowship. To all this God in Jesus has given 
his Yea and his Amen, and that is the firm ground on which 
we stand. In these turbulent times we are always forgetting 
what it is that makes life really worth while. We think that 
life has a meaning for us so long as such and such a person still 
lives. But the truth is that if this earth was good enough for 
the Man Jesus Christ, if a man like him really lived in it, 
then, and only then, has life a meaning for us. If Jesus had 
not lived, then our life, in spite of all the other people we 
know and honour and love, would be without meaning. 
No doubt we often forget in such times as these the meaning 
and purpose of our profession. But is not this the simplest 
way of putting it? The word ‘meaning’ does occur in the 
Bible, but it is only a translation of what the Bible means by 
‘promise’. 

I am conscious of the inadequacy of these words to express 
my meaning and intention, which is to give you steadfastness 
and joy and certainty in your loneliness. This day of loneliness 
need not be a lost day, if it helps you to see more clearly the 
convictions on which you are going to build your life in time 
to come. I have often found it a help to spend some time in the 
evening thinking of those who I know are remembering me 
in their prayers, both children and grown-ups. I believe I owe 
it to the prayers of others, both known and unknown, that I 
have been so often preserved in safety. 

Now another point: we are often told in the New Testa- 
ment to c be strong’ (I Corinthians 16.13: Ephesians 6.10: II 
Timothy 2.1: I John 2.14). Is not the weakness of men often 
more dangerous than deliberate malice? I mean, such things 
as stupidity, lack of independence, forgetfulness, laziness, idle- 
ness, corruption, being easily led astray, etc. Christ does not 
only make men good: he makes them strong too. The sins of 
weakness are the real human sins, the deliberate sins are 
diabolical, and no doubt strong as well! I must ponder further 
on this. Good-bye: take care of yourself, and don’t give up 
hope! 

[184 



TAKING STOCK 


August 23rd 1944 

Please don’t ever get anxious or worried about me, but 
don’t forget to pray for me — I’m sure you don’t ! I am so sure 
of God’s guiding hand, and I hope I shall never lose that 
certainty. You must never doubt that I am travelling my 
appointed road with gratitude and cheerfulness. My past life 
is replete with God’s goodness, and my sins are covered by the 
forgiving love of Christ crucified. I am thankful for all those 
who have crossed my path, and all I wish is never to cause 
them sorrow, and that they like me will always be thankful 
for the forgiveness and mercy of God and sure of it. Please don’t 
for a moment get upset by all this, but let it rejoice your heart. 
But I did want to say this for once, and I could not think of 
anyone else who would take it in the right spirit. 

Did you get the poem on freedom? I’m afraid it was very 
unpolished, but it’s a subject about which I feel deeply. 

I am now working on the chapter about e Taking Stock of 
Christianity’. I’m afraid I can’t work unless I smoke pretty 
hard, though I have many sources of supply, thank goodness, 
so I manage all right. I am often shocked at the things I am 
saying, especially in the first part, which is mainly critical. I 
shall be glad when I get to the more positive part. But the 
whole subject has never been properly thrashed out, so it 
sounds very undigested. However, it can’t be printed at present 
anyhow, and it will doubtless improve with waiting. I find it 
hard going having to write everything by hand, and I can 
scarcely read what I have written. Amusingly enough, I am 
obliged to use German handwriting, and then there are all the 
corrections. Perhaps I shall be able to make a fair copy. . . . 

I do so hope you will have a quiet time both in body and 
mind. May God take care of you, and all of us, and grant us 
the joy of meeting again soon ! I am praying for you every day ! 

Your true and grateful friend, 

D. 


185] 



VI 

Signs of Life 

from the Prinz Albert Strasse 

December 28th 1944 

Dear Mama , 

I am so glad I have just got permission to write you a 
birthday letter. Rather a hurried one, I’m afraid, for the post 
is just going. All I want is to do something to brighten up 
these troublous days for you. Dear Mama, I want you and 
Papa to know that you are constantly in my thoughts, and that 
I thank God for all you have been to me and the rest of the 
family. I know you have always lived for us, and have never 
had a life of your own. And that is why there is no one else 
with whom I can share all that I am going through. . . . Thank 
you for all the love you have brought into my cell during the 
past year: it has made every day easier to bear. I believe these 
years, hard as they have been, will have bound us more closely 
. together. My New Year’s wish for you and papa, and indeed 
for all of us, is that it may bring us at least an occasional 
glimpse of light, and that we may have the joy of reunion 
some day. May God keep you both well. With loving wishes, 
dear, dear Mother, for a happy birthday. 

Your grateful 

Dietrich 


[186 



NEW YEAR 
(i945) 

With every power for good to stay and guide me, 
comforted and inspired beyond all fear, 

I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me, 
and pass, with you, into the coming year. 

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening: 
the long days of our sorrow still endure: 

Father, grant to the souls thou hast been chastening 
that thou hast promised, the healing and the cure. 

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving 
even to the dregs of pain, at thy command, 
we will not falter, thankfully receiving 
all that is given by thy loving hand. 

But, should it be thy will once more to release us 
to life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine, 
that which we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us, 
and all our life be dedicate as thine. 

To-day, let candles shed their radiant greeting: 
lo, on our darkness are they not thy light 
leading us, haply, to our longed-for meeting? — 

Thou canst ihumine even our darkest night. 

When now the silence deepens for our harkening 
grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise 
from all the unseen world around us darkening 
their universal paean, in thy praise. 

While all the powers of Good aid and attend us 
boldly we’ll face the future, be it what may. 

At even, and at mom, God will befriend us, 
and oh, most surely on each new year’s day! 



LAST WORDS 


January 17th ig4$ 

Dear Parents , 

. . . The last two years have taught me how little we can 
get along with. But every day thousands are losing all they 
have, and when we remember that, we know that we have 
no right to call anything our own. 

Is H. W. really flying in the East? and R.’s husband? Many 
thanks for your letter. I read all my letters through until I 
know them by heart. Now a few requests. I was disappointed 
not to receive any books to-day. Commissar Sonderegger 
would quite willingly accept them every now and then, and I 
would be most grateful. Also there were no matches, face 
cloths or towel this time. Pardon my mentioning the subject; 
otherwise everything was wonderful. Could I please have 
some tooth paste and a few coffee beans? And, dear Papa, 
could you get me from the library Lienhard and Abendstunden 
eines Einsiedlers by H. Pestalozzi, Sozialpadagogik , by P. 
Natorp, and Lives of Great Men by Plutarch? 

I am getting on all right. Take care of yourselves. Once 
more, thank you for everything. 

With fondest love, 

Your grateful 

Dietrich 



Index of Biblical References 


Gen . 

2 . 20 ... 3 7 

Lev. 

26.6.. . 48 

Mum. 

11.23.. .183 

Job... 33 

7.1.. .139 

42.7ff....94 

Psalms. . .33, 64 
3*. -33 
9-2o£. . . 12 1 

13 .. .32 

18. 30.. . 90 

20.8.. . 168 

23. 1.. .168 

30.5.. . 140 

31.16.. .32 

42.6.. . 1 62 

47. --33 

50.15.. -96 

58.12b. ..121 

60.2. . . 50 

62.2.. . 162 

70.. . 33 

90.14.. . 130 

95.8.. .76 

111. 10.. .19 

1 19.94a... 162 

121.6.. .154 

127.3.. . 39 

I44.lf....i39' 

Prop. 

4.18.. .130, 141 

4.23.. -138 

189] 


6.20-2. . .136 

Matt. 

9.13.. .38 

5.48... 96 

12.4.. .38 

6.34... 25 

18.24.. .89, 139 

7.21. ..138 

22.11, 12... 125 

8.17.. .164, 167 

23.26.. .130 

10.29. ..84 

30.8f.. ..137 

18.3. ..163 

31.10.. .38 

19-5--. 37 

31. 11-29... 37f. 
Eccles. 

19.6... 36 
28.20b. ..162 

3.1-15...86 

Mark 

3.15. ..135 

10.9... 3 6 
15-34- --I54, 164 

Song of Songs . . .144 

Luke 

7.6.. .131 
Isa. 

7,.. 1 66 

19.9-. -136 

5.25... 96 

John 

8.18. ..130 

1. 14.. .126 

9.11-10.4...96 

1. 29... 166 

26.20... 140 

1. 47... 167 

41.10. . .162 

43.1.. . 162 

10.24. ..168 

53. . .166 

8... 167 

Jer. 

1.6.. .137 

10. ..167 

27.11. ..I39f. 

Rom. 

29.7. ..140 

3. 14#.... 126 

31.3. ..162 

8.31. ..168 

3 1.26... 66 

15-7--- 3i, 39 

33.9.. .141 

35.9. . .25 

21.7.. .168 

45.4-5... 50, 106, 121, 

I Cor. 

137, 169 

10.16.. .173 

11.30.. .173 

Lam , 

1 5.27... 1 16 

3.27.. .138 

16.13. ..184 



INDEX OF BIBLICAL REFERENCES 


II Cor. 
1.20.. .183 

Col. 

3.18, 19... 3<5 

James 

1.8... 96 

Gal. 

4.19. ..162 

I Tim. 
1.3a... 119 

I Pet. 

1.12.. .121 

2.20. . .64 

3. 14.. . 64 

Eph . 

1.10...87 

1.13...119 

6.<5f....i37 

1.12...34 



5 ---I 44 

5.23.. .38 

6.10.. . 184 

II Tim. 

2.1... 130, 184 

I John 
2.14... 184 











Dietrich Bonhoeffer 


Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born 
February 4th, 1906, in Breslau, t 
son of Karl Bonhoeffer, Professor 
Psychology, and his wife Pau 
From 1912 he was educated in B< 
lin, and studied theology at Ber] 
University from 1923 to 1927, wh 
he was graduated as a Licentia 
From 1928 to 19 29 he served a chui 
in Barcelona, when he was appoint 
a Lecturer in the University of B 
lin. In 1 930 he spent a year studyi 
at the Union Theological Semin; 
in New York. From 1931 he \ 
again lecturer in Berlin Uni vers 
and also Chaplain to the Techni 
High School in that city. In 1933 
became Chaplain to the Gem 
Lutheran Congregation in Lond 
and in 1 935 Director of the Preachi 
Seminary of the Confessing Chu 
in Finkenwalde. In 1936 he was < 
missed from his University lectv 
ship, and from 1940 he was on s 
rial assignments on behalf of 
Confessing Church. On April 
1943, he was arrested in Berlin, < 
hanged at Flossenbiirg on Apri” 
1945. He is the author of The C 
of Discipleship . 

This book was published in Engl 
under the title Letters and Papers ft 
Prison,